Britannia Hospital (1982)

LINDSAY ANDERSON

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. , 1982.  , , , .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Film Editing by .  Cannes Film Festival 1982.  

Lindsay Anderson makes the third in his trilogy of excoriating critiques of British society, following If…. and O Lucky Man and, like those two films, featuring as a man named Mick Travis.  The setting is an old, venerated English hospital whose shortcomings are an opportunity to take shots at the state of the NHS under Thatcher, with kitchen staff revolting against the requirement that they provide better care and meals to private patients, including a very unpopular African dictator, while the public patients get less.  Inconveniently for hospital management, this is all happening on the day that a member of the royal family is to visit the hospital for a tour, which means that getting this special guest in without the angry placard-wielding crowds finding out about it is going to be tricky.  Next to the hospital is a high-tech modern research lab where a mad scientist is looking to impress the government with his Frankenstein project, and it is while McDowell is trying to infiltrate the secrets of this experiment that he gets unwittingly (and unfortunately) involved.  Social satire that plays in such broad strokes is welcome from a filmmaker as intelligent as Anderson, but this one’s bitterness is hard to swallow and the director’s disdain for his entire world keeps it from being funny.  The aristocrats are played as inbred and corrupt and the working class is delusional and naive, making for a cold and mean film whose poor reception in its country (including being pulled from release very quickly after it opened) is not in the least bit surprising.  McDowell’s are the best sequences of the film, particularly the one showing his unfortunate end.

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