The British New Wave brought new styles and techniques to an emerging cultural generation of film. What I most enjoy about this “new” way of filming, however, are the themes these filmmakers began to explore. Mainly speaking of the spotlight put on the young angry man, showing the trials and tribulations of the working class.
Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning does exactly that through its protagonist of sorts, Arthur. Played by the profound Albert Finney, Arthur induces a mixture of emotions in the viewer. Basically because Arthur’s kind of a dick, but at the same time we look up to him. That being said, Arthur’s exterior shell is crucial for understanding his angst and all those like him. He is a product of his environment and he extensively hates his environment.
This is understandable as Arthur spends all day Monday through Friday assembling bike parts in a factory. If it sounds monotonous, that’s because it is, very much so. Working in the same factory as his father, Arthur also attempts to bend this parallel he shares.
The title of the film states the only two times these workers would have when work is not on their minds. It is not a mystery how these youths spend their free time. Laying around, messing around, and of course drinking are all on the table. At the same time it’s nice to know somethings never seem to change.
It would be a rather easy argument to say Arthur is immature. We see that in his relationships and his interactions with most people, but I would argue that Arthur has not been faced with any real responsibility throughout his life. The events in this film are the first time Arthur has to take on this new role. With the unfolding of these events comes a change in his character. This change may seem subtle, but it is most definitely there.
The final scene of the film shows this change in a very clever way. Arthur and his future wife lie in a field looking at new houses being built. These homes are nice, with something to look forward to, but not necessarily what Arthur wants. He picks up a rock and throws it at the houses, prompting an inquiry from his lady tell him they might live there one day. Arthur simply replies, “I know.” He knows where he might end up, not far from where he started, but he has begun to accept his responsibility. It is these small character changes I enjoy the most, because they feel the most real.
Besides everything else, it is very interesting to hear Albert Finney’s booming voice come out of such a young face. This is the film that gave him his career, rightfully so, as Finney’s performance encapsulates his character with both respect and honesty. It is hard not to see a piece of yourself in Arthur by the way Finney plays it. I highly recommend this film, if not for being a part of an important point in film history, then for simply being a entertaining flick. But mostly the film history part.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) directed by Karel Reisz
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