Battling for Britain film directorJohn Boorman talks to
Allan Hunter about Hope and Glory. his unashamedly British. child‘s-eye view ofthe Second World War.
John Boorman‘s Hope and (ilory. an autobiographical portrait of a family at war. is a quintessentially British film that bravely refuses to compromise its intentions for the sake of the international
marketplace. Based on the director's
formative years it focuses on the suburban lower middle-classes as they make do and mend through the dark days ofcommunal strife. air raids. rationing and the Battle of Britain.
Refuses to comprt
'l'he sorry but not unfamiliar irony behind the making of the film is. of course. that Boorman was unable to acquire British funds to finance its production. ‘I think it‘s a sad reflection on the situation here that someone at my point in his career. making a film of this nature. couldn‘t get backing in the l'ls'.‘ he reflected when we met during the summer in London. "l'he script was liked a lot but there was always a big question mark about its commerciality. It is a story about a family and growing up so it has universal elements in it. I think. We did sneak previews in
1 Silicon Valley in (‘alifornia and the
Ian Banneii— 'fe'istii old grandfather'
reactions and the preview cards were almost identical to the ones we got when we sneaked it in Croy-don which is very interesting. We had distributors put up money all over the world-(iert’nany. France. Italy. Spain. Portugal. Scandanavia. Australia and. ofcoursc. (‘olumbia in the States but we didn't get any money from the UK at all. Rank were interested for a time and then they decided not to do it.’
The production of Hope And (ilory was eventually guaranteed by the financial commitment of (‘olumbia Pictures and the specific enthusiasm ofour man in Hollywood. David I’uttnam. Before his lamentable decision to depart from the company. Puttnam had
shown a bias towards encouraging
British talents like Bill Forsyth. Ridley Scott and John Mackenzie. A project from a world-class director
j No money from the UK
like Boorman can only have appeared irresistible and it will now stand as part of the modest but hopefully glorious legacy of l’uttnam's tenure ofoffice.
The film does mark something of a
departure for Boorman. renowned for his epics of myth and magic like [ireali’lmn or his explorations of male modes of violence and confrontation like Deliverance and Point Blank. Hope and Glory is pitched at a more intimate level. dealing with a female dominated world of the family and depicting the Second World War through the eyes of an adventure-struck young boy. Boorman was six when the war started. eleven when peace was declared and recalls the half decade as an era ofgeneral abandon. ‘(‘hildren are natural anarchists and if the fathers were away and the mothers were working for the war effort they could just run wild. School was much more terrifying than the war. I hated going to school because of the corporal punishment and the discipline. and with the air raids you got offschool a lot. I think the highpoint of the war for me was going back to school after the summer holidays and discovering it had been destroyed by a doodlebug and we had an extra month's holiday. So. I think it was a release in many ways for kids and also fora lot of adults too. ()fcourse. there were frightening moments and people
died. but. for children. the notion of death is rather difficult to grasp. it‘s not that they‘re callous about it in any way but they don’t realise its implications; it's a mysterious thing and I think that children have this
ability to adjust to any situation. War 5
becatne a natural condition for us. If you look at newsreels of kids in Belfast and Beirut. you see them throwing stones at soldiers and they‘re having a wonderful time. It‘s the nature of boyhood. I would think. To loot and pillage when you're eight or nine is great fun.‘
Encouraging British talent 5
The initial inspiration for what has become Hope and (ilory was Boorman’s ‘admiration. affection and. indeed. awe for my mother and her three sisters.’ l lis desire to portray his family history in a dramatic context stretches back some fifteen years when he would tell his own children the stories and memories he retained from the war years. Initially he envisaged a television piece and several other attempts to shape the material drifted into no-man's land before he sat down during the (‘hristmas
5'l'he List 2—15()ctober