A Short Review of 'Peterloo' (2018, Mike Leigh)
A Tale of True Sorrow and Shocking Repercussions
Strong and intense was the experience I found with Peterloo. Based on the Peterloo massacre that occurred in Manchester, 1819, writer and director Mike Leigh presents to us a tale of true sorrow and shocking repercussions, displaying one of the most truly horrible events in the darker side of Britain's history.
The film is very slow and patient with the story, aiming not to rush things, making sure every detail is painstakingly perfect. All of which adds to the tension, until the final moment. Then, when the actual massacre comes to pass, it makes the scene all the more heartbreaking. As peaceful protesters, men, women and children are scythed, cut down and trampled. All while the aristocratic magistrates who instigated this massacre, with no reason, no pretext, and fully knowing the kind of damage they would unleash, look on, some of them laughing as they watch.
The story is extremely emotional and develops great sympathy for the reformer characters. However, a number of characters populate the story, not just of those of the reformers but each is equally focused on and all are complex and easily connectible for the audience, further demonstrating the competency of the films writer. Also these characters are depicted with very well done performances from all of the cast. There is also an excellent display of costume and prop design, making the film all the more authentic, making it a truly immersive watch, one that will boil the blood and stir the soul.
Until seeing this film, I did not know about the Peterloo Massacre. Why it isn't taught in history classes, I do not know, but it most definitely should be. This event is frankly horrifying, a political crime within our history that needs to be made known to all. The film massively affected me, on both a personal and political level. It despairs me to think that our heritage came from events such as this and even worse, to think that amongst political parties such as UKIP and the Conservatives, there exist factions who wish to degrade us back to this period, to forcefully impose us into an even more divided and hierarchal society that benefits the few of them and not the general population. If you ever hear someone say we should be going back to the glory days of the British Empire, remind them of this event. Of this massacre, imposed by the ruling of the so called British Empire.
To summarise, Peterloo is a truly well made, highly competent, and truly gripping film but furthermore, it is an important film. This film highlights a significant and disturbing factor of British history, one a number of the British population are unfortunately ignorant of. This film is not just important in highlighting a key historical event but also relevant aspects of our society currently.
As of 2018, the number of emergency food banks being used has risen to the highest on record. There are at least 320,000 homeless people within the UK, most of whom are having to sleep rough. Since coming to power the government has cut back healthcare, education, police numbers, and welfare, when in fact they should be cutting the deficit and dealing with inflation. Child poverty is at its highest level since 2010. On 23rd July 2018, it was found that poverty had risen from 22.1% to 23%, the biggest single year jump since Margaret Thatcher was in power. While watching this film, all these facts came to mind and I immediately thought, this is history repeating itself.
I wholeheartedly recommend this film and insist that you all see it, as it needs to be seen. Not only is it a superbly well made film but also serves as a bleak reminder of our true history.