Made in Britain is a 1983 British television play written by David Leland and directed by Alan Clarke. It tells the story a 16-year-old racist and angry skinhead named Trevor (played by Tim Roth, in his first major role), who constantly challenges his country’s institutions and authority, while remaining utterly “proud” to be British. The teenager is one of the least palatable pure-British produces: he emits a pungent odour of of xenophobia, racism, blind hate and gratuitous violent.
The film was originally broadcast on ITV in 1983 as the fourth in an untitled series of works by Leland. As with many Alan Clarke works, the director attempts to show English working-class and the country’s fragile and questionable institutions. He directed Scum in the previous year, a very graphic and profoundly disturbing tale about life in the now-defunct British youth correctional facilities called Bortals (click here in order to read our dirty review).
Clarke created a very simple film in terms of plot and structure, and yet powerful like a knife in the belly. The dialogues and Roth’s performance are so realistic that it is easy to mistake the actor for a real skinhead. His lower lip slithers through air, he gnarls through his perfect white teeth, his eyes psychotic and possessed, confronting both workers at his residential youth centre and the audiences. Cinematographer Chris Menges’s Steadicam and the punk soundtrack by the band UK82 contributed to the gloomy and jarring atmosphere in the film.
Yet Made in Britain is never a moralising tale. Despite being completely despicable and mostly dehumanised, the director never vilifies Trevor. Instead, Clarke allows him to voice his racist, violent and anti-establishment rhetoric as loud and clear as possible. He spells out his perverse and twisted interpretation of honesty in detail in an angry and yet perfectly eloquent manner. His officials are a role model of ethics: when Trevor steals a car, instead of calling the police, they just ask him to take the vehicle to another place instead.
Trevor is the personification of the most putrid and old-fashioned British values: exacerbated national pride, violent white supremacy and a sense of intellectual superiority. Fortunately, these values are not conspicuous in modern Britain, and perhaps this is why Trevor feels angry and hopeless. He even finds joy at the prospect of going to prison, as if he already knew that this is his inescapable fate. He dons a perfectly smug smile at his own failures.
Britain has seen the a few Trevors since the film was made. In 1999, the White Wolves conducted several racially motivated bombings in London, claiming several victims, while the English Defence League constantly holds protests against what they call the “Islamification of the UK”. The xenophobic rhetoric is also very vivid in Nigel Farage’s speeches, if less violent. This is why Made in Britain remains a very significant and current film.
Made in Britain is a part of ‘Dissent & Disruption: The Complete Alan Clarke at the BBC (Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set)’ out on May 30th. You can pre-order it now by clicking here.
Below is the movie trailer: