Sunday, July 7, 2013

"I Don't Honestly Think I Can Keep the Peace While I'm Incarcerated in This Shit House" (Made In Britain)

MIBMade in Britain (1982)  

Written By: David Leland

 Directed By: Alan Clarke  

Why I Saw It: My daughter received it for her birthday.

Many years ago, I was employed, by one of our local mental health centers, as a substance abuse and violence prevention specialist. "Prevention" was a bit of a misnomer, since the students referred to us by the local school system were already painfully damaged and had been in all sorts of trouble. I went into my meetings with violent kids proudly armed with strategies for alternative ways of handling potentially volatile situations. There was only one small problem with this approach. These kids had no interest in my dumb strategies. After all, in any conceivable situation, why wouldn't they want to kick someone's ass?

Since they showed no remorse or empathy for their victims, I went back to something we'd been told, in grad. school, about working with antisocial personalities. Focus on their self-interest. Help them see that their lives would be better if they stayed the hell out of trouble. If necessary, work on getting them to see the links between their actions and the consequences.

 No dice. These kids showed no interest whatsoever in staying out of trouble. They could be threatened with expulsion, court, incarceration, a life of misery and squalor ... they couldn't care less. This is still a bit of a mystery to me. I suspect, for some of these kids, this was a display of sheer bravado. For others, I think that never having known happiness, love, or security -- even in early childhood -- they simply couldn't conceive of an easier life.

trevor-made-in-britainI was slightly reminded of some of those kids while watching Made in Britain. This television drama was Tim Roth's screen debut. Roth portrayed Trevor, a sixteen-year-old skinhead and juvenile delinquent, full of strutting, raging bravado and with a swastika tattooed to his forehead.

After his day in court for attacking a Pakistani man and vandalizing his store, for which he doesn't bother to feign a shred of remorse, Trevor is taken to a residential facility for a psychological evaluation.  

made-in-britain-2He rages at authority while holding his hand out for anything to which he feels entitled. And he promptly escapes, with his somewhat naive roommate in tow, engaging in some of his favorite pastimes: car theft, vandalism, and glue-sniffing.

We aren't given any back story about Trevor -- the movie offers no clue as to how he evolved into an enraged, destructive racist. While I was curious to know more about this character, I appreciated the fact that the film resisted the temptation to offer us any answers. Trevor simply is who he has become, a young man for whom we have virtually no hope.

 Odd as it may sound, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is no secret that I have a weakness for British social realism, and I was drawn into Roth's performance. I could see his squirming, writhing rage and hatred, his impulsiveness, his eerie detachment from the realities of his own life, and his carefully camouflaged adolescent fear and insecurity every moment he was onscreen. This was drawn out by deft cinematography, illuminating his subtly shifting reactions to everything that happened. This is an unforgettable performance that foreshadowed later powerful films about skinhead culture, such as This is England and American History X.  

Memorable Quote: Well, honestly speaking, I don't honestly think I can keep the peace while I'm incarcerated in this shit house!


  1. I work with teens (and in some cases, tweens) in a rehabilitation center, and I can relate. There are some kids that really want help and want to better themselves, then there's the ones that are just coasting through. It took a bit of time for me to realize that. Not everyone thinks very rationally. Either way, I've never heard of this, but I'm instantly interested from your review. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'd forgotten you're a social worker. Human services is a tough profession -- I don't know whether I'll ever go back. If you decide to watch this film, I'll be very interested to see your reactions. :-)

  2. Steph, this is a excellent post. It's no wonder we've found each others blogs...this is exactly how I write (well, it's better...but you know what I mean). Love to see how you relate to the film!

    As for the business at hand, I will likely never see this, but I can't help but smile at the thought of a young and reckless Tim Roth.

    1. It's interesting that you mentioned that. I was thinking, as I was writing this post, that it reminded me of your style. You and I both tend to digress a bit and include personal details in our reviews. With the "yays" and "boos," yours are a bit more detailed and a lot more entertaining, though.

      And I probably ripped off the idea of using a movie quote as the title of the blog post -- which I do occasionally if there's a quote that grabs me -- directly from you. So all I can say about that is that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Hah hah!

      Honestly this is well worth seeing for Roth's performance alone. Seeing a 21-year-old Roth portraying a seriously disturbed 16-year-old who is off the chain ... well, it's pure pleasure. That may sound a little sick, but you know what I mean. ;-) I can understand that this might not be your cup of tea, though.

  3. I'd find it really difficult to succeed at, or even get through, such a job. However, the psychology behind anti-social behaviour remains so interesting.

    I'll perhaps make time to watch this film :) It makes me think of Trainspotting, although that's probably overlooking so many individual details of each film!

    1. I never felt I was successful in that job, truthfully. I used to be fascinated with the psychology of antisocial behavior, but gradually it just became baffling and depressing. Oddly enough, I enjoy encountering it in books and films, though -- especially movies. Go figure. :-)

      Interesting comparison with Trainspotting. :-) Begby ... now THAT's one of the scariest movie characters I've ever seen.

  4. Wonderful post! I just heard of this film a few days ago when I glanced at Roger Ebert's review of American History X. I can't wait to check it out!

    1. You prompted me to check out Ebert's review of American History X. I love the way he described Roth's character in MIB as a "truly satanic skinhead." That's pretty accurate. Trevor is probably the scariest kid I've ever met, with in films or real life. My respect for Roth skyrocketed while watching this film, and I was already a fan.


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