Jan 21, 2011
It has become alarming so that British cinema has developed a greater portion of masterpieces than one would care to admit. Take Scum for example, either production, or the recently released Eden Lake, a bold contender for a tangible terror. These marvelous works of various degrees in genre fiction amass a cinema, new, fresh, and raw. It's no wonder Threads has been hailed as being the most disturbing films of all time and after experiencing it, I can't find myself to argue against that. Released in 1984 on BBC One, then BBC Two, Threads quickly disappeared from local television channels with no mystery as to why. Airing this was one of those risqué but necessary steps to discipline tube-tied youth, the same as how one might recommend Requiem for a Dream to be shown to a Health class. Explained in a docudrama mock-"What if?" format, Threads counts down till fallout and examines the middle class and their struggles while war is alluded to on the background television sets. The oblivious nature of the citizenry is one of the lasting images of Threads. Societal structure past, you'd hark back to the days of drinking an ale in your local tavern. But there's nothing of that to be found anymore.
The style alone in which Threads details teleprompters and theatrical reenactments gives an authentic backdrop for the warfare. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure of which direction the conflict would torpedo towards. Given the cheery disposition and expecting nature of the family, I was anticipating a subtle melodrama, strict and concise on point but fair and lax to our soon-to-be family. But that was me holding a flame of hope in vain. Soon thereafter, the nuclear holocaust that we had known was forthcoming suddenly dawned and set afire to the entire establishment of Sheffield which highlights an affordable yet heart-stopping rendition of a nuclear explosion. First the mushroom cloud appears over the horizon only to follow in its wake a searing flash and total meltdown of societal construct, obliterating all in its path. Screenwriter Barry Hines paid close attention to his characters as to not develop a bond with them - charming yet expendable. Threads is a beast, plain and simple. It built it up just to break it back down. The most valuable component of Threads isn't in its consequential look on political affairs or environmental buggery but the scorched imagery it so heavily relies on. The point's passed with excellent marks. I've never respected a made-for-TV film this handsomely, well, not including Bad Ronald.
For the physical part of Threads, much subtlety is employed to the effects of decomposition. Similar to an effect utilized in Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a time lapsed object is shown deteriorating quickly. This effect is brief but sweet. Not once to my recollection has a scene of nuclear attack been so stark and daring. Struggling against convention, the attack isn't filtered through digital animation but instead created on the basis of a blinding and incendiary flash that devastates all in its path. In other words, it's not Emmerich eye candy or anything like The Sum of All Fears. The narrative of Threads is also peculiar, switching from informative title cards to branching stories of two families connected by young and struggling lovers. From this aspect is where much misery comes into play. You see, Threads doesn't detail an afternoon or a week but decades after fallout. This decision highlights not just the fateful attack but the incineration of a major city and the unrecoverable effects of war. At this point a hierarchy of stranded emergency officials struggle to ration food trapped below rubble while strange, bandaged soldiers and officers enforce martial law. Just in these two instances alone makes Threads far from ordinary. Especially for the standards previously set for this film, Threads severs and defies all connections - which serves as an ultimate irony considering the opening analysis of the thread-like structure of civilized life.
It's brave filmmaking like this that makes me realize how important British cinema is. You'd think that during filming, Mick Jackson would have been worried that Threads would be too good. It marks one of the few films that truly scares me, not out of monsters, ghouls, or otherworldly demons but a non-artificial fear. Similar to the feeling tainted on me by Orozco the Embalmer, Threads soured my daily view of life. I don't believe the images within will ever fully evaporate from my mind. I don't mean to bestow Threads with any "film of the year" award. That isn't my intention. However, no matter how flawed, dated, or cheap the production may have been, Threads is a sizzling portrait of a cataclysm that is virtually untouched with barely any competition. Perhaps the most poignant post-apocalyptic film out there.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:54 AM
Soiled Sinema 2007 - 2013. All rights reserved. Best viewed in Firefox and Chrome.