Book Review: Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television

| October 6, 2011 | Comments (0)

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Title: Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television
Author: John Hill

Ken Loach is a filmmaker who, more than any other, has been able to tell the difficult reality of the British working class (and beyond). Spanning almost five decades, his extraordinary career is characterized by a steady political commitment and a deep sympathy to the problems of the lower classes of British society. Born in 1936 in Nuneaton, England, to a working class family, the director has never forgotten his proletarian roots, which have always been a strong component of his political activism and work as a director. Having turned 75 in June of this year, Ken Loach joined the BBC in 1963 to start an incredible career made up of television works, documentary and film features. To celebrate all this, John Hill, Professor of Media at the Royal Holloway University of London, has written a compelling book about Ken Loach’s career entitled Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television which has been published by the British Film Institute.

Through Hill’s writings we discover that it’s not so often that a film director can also claim a TV directing career as eventful and remarkable as Ken Loach’s one. His film and TV trajectory has often followed an intertwined path that share certain common factors, such as realism, naturalism and tackling political issues as well as (and this is one of the most valuble and original contributions we can retrieve from John Hill’s account) showing us a certain ‘Loachian’ tendency for-non conventional filmmaking , quirky stories and somehow an almost ‘Fellinian’ approach towards some of his productions (amongst others Two Minds and The Golden Vision as examples of the latter).

Works like Diary of a Young Man and Days of Hope are largely reviewed and analyzed by John Hill with an in-depth insight into the historical as well as the political context, giving the reader the chance to explore the politically engaged Loach. In the specific case of the analysis of Days of Hope, for example, Hill brings to the foreground the importance of this TV series in making a departure from other period dramas of the time, as Loach does not portray just the British families in general but also the political outlooks that he adopts.

The Politics of Film and Television tells us of a consistent, honest and sincere Loach throughout his work life. These are indeed revealing qualities for a director who tells stories of men and women on the margin of society, who strongly demand his attention, like the characters in Kes, Family Life and Sweet Sixteen. Through his stories of everyday life, Ken Loach has often been able to create tough and merciless portraits of humankind’s perennial struggle.

Loach’s early career was rooted in television but at the same time by pushing for the increased use of film in television drama, he questioned the existence of any essential distinction between film and television. However, as the use of film in television drama grew more frequent, the economics of television began to render the ‘single play’, or filmed drama, less common as it increasingly made way for the filmed series and serial.

The great strength of John Hill’s work is his ongoing crossing of the boundaries between Loach, the television director, and Loach, the film director. Moreover the book’s considerable lasting value lies in the quality and depth of the contextual material, accompanied by a lenghty and precious bibliography. Hill’s account of Loach’s career is a particularly valuable tool, as is his exploration of the peculiar historical, cultural and political context that allowed Ken Loach for nearly 50 years to build his reputation as one of the most passionate and politically engaged television and film directors in British and European history.

Nicola Marzano

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: British Film Institute (3rd June 2011)
• Language English
• ISBN-10: 184457203X
• ISBN-13: 978-1844572038
• Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 17.4 x 2 cm

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Category: Book Reviews, Reviews

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