When moviegoers at large think of Scotland on the big screen, do recent American extravaganzas like "Braveheart" and "Rob Roy" spring to mind? After all, they deliver the rugged men fighting for freedom, kilts, and indecipherable brogues. But these big budget... [more]
When moviegoers at large think of Scotland on the big screen, do recent American extravaganzas like "Braveheart" and "Rob Roy" spring to mind? After all, they deliver the rugged men fighting for freedom, kilts, and indecipherable brogues. But these big budget epics, which star nary a Scot (instead we get an Australian and an Irishman, respectively) can't really be called authentic. But they do clarify the themes that have spawned New Scottish Cinema: a people hindered by oppression; a disenfranchised race acting as a laboratory for experimental policies; a culture intensely nationalistic yet haunted by its inability to lay claim to its land.
New Scottish Cinema is a study of the dark effects of living under the social heel. No swarthy swashbucklers here -- this genre embraces all the existential bleakness that postmodernity could wish. Rebellion, still key to the Scottish identity, becomes internalized in destructive ways. The hero becomes the anti-hero, saying 'no' by simply dropping out. If Scotland can't confront its oppressors, it turns on itself -- its own brethren, its own body.
And destruction comes in many forms: in "Trainspotting," it is the needle; in "Shallow Grave," it's money; and in "Small Faces," gang warfare is the chosen poison. For the protagonist of 'Trainspotting,' middle-class banality has replaced invading armies as the modern form of oppression. He poses the question that perhaps all New Scottish Cinema asks: 'Choose life'But why would I want to do a thing like that?'
Even as dispossession plays itself out in these films, a black humor emerges to demand that life not to be taken too seriously. Surrealistic in nature, extreme to the point of farce, the world of crime, violence, and drugs understands its own ridiculous nature. Many of the characters, like the audience, know that what they are involved in somehow isn't real; but through an existential feeling of "so what?" they follow the events to their twisted conclusions anyway. In the end, New Scottish Cinema's giggle at the hopeless is its ultimate weapon. [show less]