There is a downside of course….
It’s heightened, even camp. There are some crazily mannered performances in places, some off-key casting, and plot holes a go-go.
It’s deeply conservative, often brutal, the stories hang together only loosely.
It makes no sense that Luther is still allowed to work as a police officer.
It’s shockingly violent – and within that violence it has a special soft spot for the terrorising and slaughter of women.
All that stuff I don’t like at all. I really don’t.
But It’s Only a Story
But, the argument goes, Luther touches reality only fleetingly, so we’re ok. And as a narrative it really does know how to hold, and scare, and thrill its audience, so that’s even more ok.
You could say Luther is just another spooky fairy story. Another Brothers Grimm style fable. And come on, when there is far, far worse out there, in most computer games and a good chunk of the movies being made, Luther is just lightweight entertainment.
Or is it?
We’re Not Safe
Luther is predicated on the idea that, somewhere close, There Be Monsters.
That the fabric of society is thin, and barely holding together.
“We’re not safe”. It’s an idea that crops up over and over again at the moment.
Watching TV, going to the movies, there’s such a sense of apocalypse abroad. Such a sense of dread. I saw ‘Man of Steel’ the other night. Mass market entertainment. But so dark, so cold, so violent. And I don’t think I have ever seen more sheer STUFF destroyed on screen, ever.
Wherever you look, constant movie trailers about zombie apocalypses. Constant movies about the end of the world. Constant trailers for video games where guys slaughter other guys, or monsters slaughter women, or everyone gets pulped in some chemical-nuclear-metor-strike-alien-invasion.
I followed Luther last night with ‘Outlaw’ on Five Star – a Brit movie from 2007, I thought it was going to be a perfectly amiable Danny Dyer vehicle. (And, yes, I’ll confess, I quite like Danny Dyer. It had Sean Bean and Bob Hoskins too. Even better.)
But, guess what, Outlaw derived its energy from the idea that the police are corrupt, the legal system is ineffective, and criminals habitually collude with the police to murder, deal drugs, rape and torture, all with the complicity of an id-driven population who are happy to turn a blind eye so long as they can have the occasional spa break, designer apartment, lap dance, holiday abroad.
Filmed in a washed out blue-grey, it was relentlessly bleak. The only chink of redemption came from a cowardly character finally acquiring the ‘bollocks’ to execute a gangster boss in cold blood.
Five Star has an ad campaign going on in each commercial break where they have three puppets, three old age pensioners, watching a movie from their sofa. Frankly these old folks seemed like aliens as they oohed, sighed, and ah-ed at whatever they were watching.
Probably Fred Astaire, or Grace Kelly. Silver screen images of a much, much better world. The juxtaposition with Outlaw, the movie they were apparently ‘watching’, was just funny.
Luther has kicked off so much discussion among writers I know. Most of them see it as very accomplished, but astonishingly violent, and even more astonishingly misogynistic. And what really gets people going is that Ben Stephenson (Head of BBC Drama) is apparently happy to say that Luther is brave, that it pushes boundaries.
Real Bravery From the BBC?
I do think Luther is brilliantly done, actually – but you know what would be genuinely brave of the BBC?
They should commission a remake of Kenneth Clarke’s “Civilisation”.
They should have 13 weeks of some genuinely intelligent people talking about the history of civilisation in a genuinely intelligent way. And they should resist the temptation to slow it down and crap it up with celebs and tedious computer graphics and pompous music…
I know, I know. Never going to happen. That’s not where we are at the moment.
But when a commission like that is a less acceptable proposition for our national channel than more women being eviscerated, don’t we know we’re in trouble?
If film and TV represent our society’s subconscious, there’s something very dark under the surface right now.
A collective monster under our collective beds, just like in Luther.
Let’s be careful what we wish for.
Screenwriting Workshop This Weekend In London
With that off my chest I wanted to mention that we still have one or two places left on this weekend’s workshop – it’s this coming Saturday/Sunday July 13-14 and it’s the last until the Autumn.
Tanya Tillett and Bradley Quirk are the special guests. Tanya is literary agent with the Knight Hall Agency, while Bradley is a Pathé Creative Executive, at the heart of the British Film industry, who has worked on ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ and ‘Philomena’, having previously worked at the UKFC and the BFI.
The seminar is in its usual venue not far from Kings Cross in London. More information on the writing weekend