27 October 2016

Protest

A few days ago I went to the pictures to see the latest Ken Loach film. It is titled, "I, Daniel Blake". The theme of it attracted me - a working man exasperated and defeated by bureaucracy following a heart attack. While his doctors say he must not return to work, the systems of the state are just not listening.

It is like being trapped in Franz Kafka's "The Castle". No matter where Daniel Blake turns or how much he tries, he cannot find justice. He tries to jump through the official hoops but to no avail. He is plunging into a poverty trap.

Ably played by Dave Johns, Daniel befriends a young mother called Katie who has ended up in Newcastle with her two children. She too has become a victim of uncaring state bureaucracy. They stick together and help each other in different ways.

At one point, Daniel sprays a message of protest on the concrete walls of The Job Centre - "“I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve.” When he finally secures the desired appeal meeting, Katie accompanies him to provide moral support. In the waiting room, Daniel starts to feel unwell and never returns from The Gents. There'a sense in which he has effectively been killed by government agencies.that are meant to provide welfare to those in genuine need. It is a very modern tragedy.

This was a well-intentioned film with a powerful core message and I am aware that it won the prestigious "Palm d'Or" at Cannes this summer but I came away from the cinema feeling a little disappointed. Why didn't the police charge Daniel with criminal damage when he sprayed the wall? Why was the funeral eulogy read  by Katie and not by a family member or old workmate? Why did Katie's daughter speak without a regional accent while Katie herself had a broad London accent?

There were numerous similar irritations which I wouldn't have expected from Ken Loach. They tended to nibble away at the illusion of reality, causing unwelcome distraction. He was tackling a social theme that very few film makers would even think of exploring. The many victims of state bureaucracy - those who visit food banks and get crushed by The System desperately need champions to sing their painful songs and spark change.

18 comments:

  1. Well, he did sing their painful song but just not very well. Some of these flaws seem a little too obvious.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Boy! That brings back a memory! I read Kafka's "The Castle" back in 1963! I still have a copy of the book here somewhere...I'll have to find it!

    That sounds like an interesting film...it's received some good reviews...although not from your good self (overall).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't get me wrong Lee - I enjoyed the film but didn't get lost in it.

      Delete
  3. It sounds like a good film despite some discrepancies. Social injustice puts bums on seats.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bums on seats? Do you mean the bureaucrats Treey?

      Delete
  4. I'd never heard the name Ken Loach until yesterday, when I browsed TV listings in the hope of maybe finding something I could watch in the evening. "Sweet Sixteen" was shown on German TV, but after I'd read the description, I decided against watching it. It received more praise than most films, but I was too much of a coward to watch it - too much stark, drab, sad reality. All I was looking for was a bit of entertainment.
    For me to want to watch something like that, I need to be in the mood.

    Sorry to hear there were such blunders in the film. It sounds like they could have easily been avoided.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you ever seen "Kes" Meike? That was directed by Ken Loach. I bet your Steve saw it and loved it.

      Delete
    2. "Kes" was mentioned in the article I read about Ken Loach, but I have not seen it and can't remember Steve ever having mentioned it. He may have done, but if so, I have forgotten.

      Delete
    3. Steve was a South Yorkshire lad. He will definitely have seen "Kes". You should see it too.

      Delete
  5. I've only read two Kafka: The Trial and The Castle. I was young and exploring literature. I really didn't enjoy them which, given my love of Dostoyevsky and similar Russian authors surprised me. I admire Ken Loach. Would I watch this film? Perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am presently watching "Questiontime" on the television and there's Ken Loach arguing the toss in Gloucester. A great man but "I,Daniel Blake" is flawed in my very humble opinion.

      Delete
  6. My friend wants me to see this film with her, but, my day job makes me see the other side of this coin sometimes, and so I don't think I want to see it....and as much as I loved Sweet Sixteen and Kes I don't hold to the view that just because it is a Ken Loach film it is to be revered.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's worth seeing. It makes some powerful points but in my view it's a long way from being a great film.

      Delete
  7. I always feel loach' films are fairy tales wrapped up as reality

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I admire him for addressing themes that others have shied away from but I do see what you mean.

      Delete
  8. I suppose it's a sign of how out-of-it I am when it comes to movies that I hadn't heard of this particular film. It sounds effective, if not exactly flawless.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I read a letter the other day from a woman who had been made redundant at the age of 60. She still wanted/needed to work and tried to get an interview at the Job Centre only to be directed by the answerphone automaton to visit their online service. She went to her CAB office and they finally managed to get through to a real person on the phone for her. After answering a few stupid questions (do you intend getting pregnant?) she finally got her interview.

    This is surely an example of how the austerity programme and cuts in spending are making the state less of the servant of the people while we can find the money for grandiose schemes that benefit the powerful.

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.