Between Heros and Villains: Some British Filmmakers of 2011

In 2011 we saw a new generation of filmmakers with a series of debut features that emanate originality;  subverting the form and challenging the typical narrative of cinema as well as the characters it produces. The hero pulled down from his pedestal with flaws displayed unashamedly – imperfect, vulnerable  and sometimes far from moral. The fables clouded by removing the binary opposition of good and bad, a blurring of the lines between hero and villain as the allure is maintained but the passivity is quashed. A realism that requires the viewer to find their own moral teachings amidst the challenged stereotypes.

Ben Wheatley challenged expectations of both genre and character in his sophomore film Kill List when aligning the viewer with an unpredictable and violent hitman, calling into question the representation of violence in cinema and indeed the accolade that surrounds the violent anti-hero. The action is harsh and unrelenting, serving as a reminder of that which has come to be a common stylised decoration of action and horror films (or the classily categorised ‘torture-porn’) and the real world implications of this immorality.

Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur also grounded nightmarish violence and abuse in a performance-centric drama that made morality an elusive possession. Exploring the depths of sin within the unlikeliest of saints, and observing the trials of torment on the undeserving, in a setting where Karma’s impotence shines out from the depths of an unforgiving council estate.

Attack The Block localised an alien invasion to the depths of a South London estate, where Joe Cornish too employed an anti-hero in the form of a crew leader that would normally be cast as the threat in the ever-popular ‘hood’ film. The borders of the good/bad dichotomy blur as the gang is enlisted too stand-in as saviour to a run-down tower block, versed in true LDN patois and comedically challenging audience alignment by preventing itself from making any character too  virtuous.

Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, whilst not so much centred on the dark or violent, communicated a deeply dramatic story through the comedy of straight-faced and self-aware characters. Once again allowing the protagonist to be seen with all of his flaws – rid of the contrivance of a saintly hero by grounding him in a depth of teenage defects: a self-important and calculated boy like any other, though the cinematic representations are few and far between, and tend to lack this sincerity.

Black Pond, the debut of young writer/director/actor Tom Kingsley, took a blackly comic slant on a middle class family who find themselves challenged with a moral decision. Flaunting the flaws of all characters and evoking laughter at their expense, it proudly collects the idiosyncrasies of regular people and highlights a quintessential Britishness.

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