Note: this review is a contribution to the The British Invaders Blogathon hosted by the great folks over at A Shroud of Thoughts. 

if.... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)

In this allegorical story, a revolution led by pupil Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) takes place at an old established private school in England.

With his film if...., director Lindsay Anderson responded to François Truffaut's saying that nothing good, in films, has come out of England. Even if this statement is totally wrong, let's take the time to mention the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger collaborations for instance, Anderson was a strong defender of the films of his country while admiring pantheon directors like John Ford with his brilliant writings about this master of American Cinema. 

The subversive film that is if.... is quite something that no one should read on the first level. First, because it might make no sense for a simple minded viewer but also because every scene starts out as being a normal scene of a private English school and turns out in the last thinking way possible for it to become. It is interesting to observe how ironic each character is and how laughable they can become. Every character and every aspect of the English life and society is kicked in the nuts. 

One thing I must honestly admit is the transfer from color to black and white film that I can't quite understand the logic behind it. In mind there's none and it might just be an artistic value that wants to demonstrate change and transition in the emerging new society of 1968. Let's remember the events of May 68 in France. Even in an orderly world like England where they still have a Queen and the Parliament people don't really protest or riot. Well, until the coming of Punk rock movements initiated by The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, and their followers.

Speaking of the visuals of this film, the photography is superb and it was a Czech New Wave cinematographer named Miroslav Ondricek. It is more than worth mentioning and the whole film feels fresh and it has this vibe of revolt that many films of the Czech New Wave carried.

There are those kind of films that you watch one time and then you can relegate as I've seen it and I might never rewatch it and I'm good with it. But, the second kind of films, the ones you can watch again and again and find something new and interesting about it. if.... fells into this category.


  1. if... really is a singular film and very hard to classify. Is it part of the British New Wave? An exercise in surrealism? An attack on British institutions? All of the above? I think if... is hard to pigeonhole is one of its strengths, and certainly why it stands out from other British films of the late Sixties! Anyhow, I really enjoyed this post and thank you for participating in the blogathon!

  2. According to Anderson, the reason for the shifts between black-and-white and colour film was simply that he couldn't afford to use nothing but colour film, and parts had to be in colour.
    There's a French predecessor, Zéro de Conduite, made by Jean Vigo in 1933. A funnier, lighter film- you might say If is Anderson's Marxist remake of vigo's anarchist film.

    1. Yeah, I sensed the influence by Vigo's film and also Truffaut's Les 400 coups. I don't know if I would sort If... as only a Marxist film but I think that your lecture is valauble.
      Thank you for reading and commenting Roger.


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