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British Realist Filmmakers Ken Loach
Ken Loach Our concept of reality is subjective, anyhow, and any reporting of actual events tends to dispense different values and interpretations. Ken Loach
Ken Loach • Born in 1937 • Entered BBC in 1963 as a trainee director • Earliest directorial contributions - Z-Cars (BBC with Sir Hugh Greene as Director. General and Sydney Newman as Head of Drama) • Launch of the Wednesday Play (Loach made six dramas for this slot)
Ken Loach at BBC • Up the Junction (1968) Groundbreaking docudrama in elliptical style. Incl. controversial issue (abortion) • Cathy Come Home (1968) A docudrama about being homeless as a social problem
Ken Loach at BBC • Cathy and Reg fall on hard times when Reg injures at work. The family slides into poverty, debt and homelessness. Cathy and her children are separated from Reg and admitted to a care home. Cathy causes a trouble with the authorities. They are kicked out from the care home and eventually her children are forcibly taken away by social welfare officers.
Ken Loach at BBC CREATION METHODS of Cathy Come Home • Based on Jeremy Sanford’s stories about homelessness partially published in newspapers and broadcasted on the radio. • The first draft was a three-page outline backed up with press clippings, transcripts, tapes and notes. • (Semi-) improvised acting and dialogue • Mixing real people with carefully chosen actors; Location shooting
Feature Films of Ken Loach • Poor Cow (1967) First feature film Scripted by Nell Dunn (Up the Junction) and starring Carol White (Cathy Come Home) Shot entirely on location in naturalistic and documentary style (transitional work)
Feature films of Ken Loach • Kes (1969) • Story of Billy Casper, a working class lad from Barnsley, alienated from school and with no prospect but working as a miner, finds a sense of personal achievement in teaching himself how to train and fly a kestrel.
Feature films of Ken Loach • Masterly study of working-class childhood in Northern England • School children were found in Barnsley • Dialogues almost entirely improvised as filming progressed
Feature films of Ken Loach • Entirely shot on location in Barnsley by Chris Menges, with great delicacy and sensitivity • A narrative film with a real sense of place and character
Feature films of Ken Loach • Compare how high schools are represented and how the education systems are referred to in Peter Weir’s Dead Poet’s Society (1989) and Ken Loach’s Kes. Clip
Television films of Ken Loach • Family Life (1971) Study of schizophrenia and medical inefficiency Radical political dramas for TV in the 70 s • The Rank and File (1971) About the strike of Pilkington glass workers • Days of Hope (1975) About the politicization of a family around the time of the Great Strike in 1926
Ken Loach in the 80 s • Loach in the 80 s - a difficult decade with little work and miscalculated projects • Questions of Leadership (never shown) Four part documentaries about trade union and trade unionism • Fatherland (1986) About immigration in Europe
Ken Loach ‘I think I’d lost my way a bit – and lost touch with the kind of raw energy of the things we’d done in the mid-sixties and with Kes. The films I was making weren’t incisive enough. I wasn’t getting the right projects and I wasn’t getting the right ideas. And so that’s why I tried documentaries not long after the big political change occurred in Britain. ’ Ken Loach
Ken Loach in the 90 s and after • 1990 s - A renaissance in his career • Hidden Agenda (1990) A political thriller set in N. Ireland about the British army’s shoot-to-kill policy • Riff-Raff (1991) A comic drama on workers in a building site, who are employed without proper insurance and employment protection.
• Raining Stones (1993) Ken Loach in the 90 s and after About an unemployed Catholic who desperately tries to find money for his daughter’s Christening • Ladybird, Ladybird (1994) About the difficult relationship between a working-class British woman and an Uruguayan refugee • Land Freedom (1995) Struggles inside the Republican fighters in Spanish Civil War
Ken Loach in the 90 s and after • Carla’s Song (1996) A love story between a Glaswegian bus driver and a Nicaraguan refugee. • My Name Is Joe (1998) Drama about a reformed alcoholic trying to run a failing football team
Ken Loach in the 90 s and after • Navigators (2001) Response to the privatization of the British Rail • Sweet Sixteen (2002) About a Glaswegian single mother boy whose dream is to live with his mother in their own home when she comes out of prison.
Ken Loach • Sweet Sixteen - a teenage boy resorts to drug dealing to gain money to escape the poverty of housing estate and start a new life with his drug addict mother. • Shot around the council estates of Greenok in economically depressed Glasgow, the film reflects the uncompromising and grim reality
Ken Loach in the 90 s and after • The role of Liam is played by a non-professional Glaswegian youth, Martin Compston in naturalistic manners. • Scripted by Glaswegian, Paul Laverty, who has a deep inside knowledge about Glasgow and its social problems. Keen ears to the local language. • The hardships of people at the bottom of the society • Sense of location and reality of characters
Mimetic realism and referential realism • Mimesis = copying the appearance of situations, events, people or objects. • Referential = make the viewer aware of the social issue, situation, events or people that really exist outside a film and it refers to as a referent. • Referent – a being that a sign refers to.
Mimetic realism and referential realism • In mimetic realism a film copies people, objects and events which exist or are likely to exist in reality, and presents to the spectator its verisimilitude or replica. • In referential realism a film points the spectator’s attention to people, objects and events which exist in reality.
Mimetic realism and referential realism • Impact on the viewer / the viewer’s response: • Mimetic realism – marvel and wonder • Referential realism – leave practical effects on viewers and raise their consciousness for the issues referred in the film
Mimetic realism and referential realism • ‘… the most effective drama on contemporary social and living conditions ever shown on BBC. ’ Alan Rosenthal, The New Documentary in Action • Cathy Come Home had more impact than any other drama of the decade • Issue of homelessness debated in the parliament and Shelter was established. • Referential realism can change the reality which it refers to.
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach • Avoiding generic narratives and formal virtuosity in favour of a plain visual style • ‘Quiet shots’ – normal camera angles or compositions, normal 35 -50 mm lens, natural lighting, subdued colours • Without detailed scripts or storyboards
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach ‘The thing about working with Ken is that you learn very, very quickly that he wants a very sensitive quiet camera that isn’t going to impose a style on the actors or the script. It should quietly observe. ’ Chris Menges
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach • Storyboard – ‘… I find that very sterile. In a storyboard, you are stuck with what you draw. I would never do that. I think it’s very sterile and it works against the actors and against improvisation. ’ Ken Loach
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach • Open-endedness - no simple resolution • Un-idealized characterization • Naturalistic acting (no make-up, no wardrobe, no cast trailer) • Filming in continuity and in real locations
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach • Rather than selecting main characters because we might like or admire, the films described as ‘realistic’ choose characters that are often difficult to like. Ken Loach on Ladybird, Ladybird • ‘The trouble with your films … is that people might believe them. Look, we want actors to look like actors, we want it to be clear. ’ Tony Garnett (BBC Manager)
Filmmaking Methods of Ken Loach • For the first scene of Bread and Roses which is set in the Mexican boarder, American crew objected to go to the actual boarder and suggested to shoot in a location which looks like the boarder • Fake it? Why take any thing when we have the real thing? ’ Ken Loach • ‘Ken wanted to shoot in continuity order, even if it meant moving in and out of locations …’ 1 st Assistant Director for Bread and Roses