“The further left you go, the more right-wing you become,” Headmaster Jim Nelson (A Fish Called Wanda's Michael Palin) announces late into 1991's BAFTA award-winning 7-episode, 588 minute miniseries G.B.H.
And as we witness throughout director Robert Young and author Alan Bleasdale's incredibly addictive politically satirical dramedy, Nelson couldn't have been more astute in not just his warning but its added meaning as an assessment of the idiotic, corrupt scheming Labour Party Leader Michael Murray (a pitch-perfect Robert Lindsay).
However, even before the neurotic Nelson is able to come to that conclusion and confront the tyrannical man directly, as audience members, we immediately ascertain just how cold-blooded he can be as moments into episode one, he kicks out his old villainous headmaster and burns incriminating childhood school records.
And for Murray, everything about where he is today and what kind of man he's become can be found in those records which nearly found him institutionalized due to his association with a classmate named Eileen Critchley.
Needless to say, the man is a mess around headmasters. And when unfortunately, Nelson is the only person standing in his way as allegedly the sole worker in England who went about his day as usual in educating special needs children when Murray called for a strike (just because he can), the soft-spoken neurotic intellectual becomes Murray's illogical enemy number one.
When tormenting the children of the school with his cronies in tow doesn't do the trick, Murray does everything within his power to make Nelson a psychological wreck, which unfortunately in Nelson's case doesn't take much as he's soon developed an irrational fear of crossing bridges and also begun awakening naked in different areas of his home.
However, G.B.H. is hardly a David vs. Goliath story as we eventually acknowledge that yes, Murray may be manipulative and dangerous but that he's far too stupid to have orchestrated all of the events without becoming the pawn of those around him. And although we had our suspicions about his personality early on-- as is often the case in politics-- it takes the arrival of Lindsay Duncan's beguilingly beautiful blonde to make Murray just as neurotic and nonsensical as Nelson.
Subversive and timely not only coming off our recent administrations in both countries but especially when taking into consideration its late Margaret Thatcher era release and fact that it goes after both comically and seriously the problems in that period, G.B.H. bounces back and forth in mood, tone and cinematic judgment as though it were echoing its manic main characters.
While Palin and the BAFTA winning Lindsay are given equal opportunities to shine and it's a particular joy for Python fans to watch Palin entertain the children of his school onscreen, just like the recently reviewed Edge of Darkness was bolstered by it's rock infused soundtrack, G.B.H. is also particularly fascinating for the BAFTA winning sounds of Elvis Costello and Richard Havey's collaboration.
Although the video quality, stereo soundtrack and 4:3 full-screen aspect ratio shows the nearly twenty year old age of the Channel 4 miniseries pretty well, Acorn Media wisely added English subtitles for the deaf and/or hard of hearing to ensure that none of the rich dialogue is lost to accent confusion or audio quality depending on your set-up.
At times awkward and off-putting in its opposite end of the spectrum challenging approach of moving from harrowing hate crimes to bedroom shenanigans, G.B.H. is also about one hour or at least an episode too long as we guess the true connection and identity of one character nearly as soon as they arrive onscreen.
Nonetheless it's a sophisticatedly written and exceedingly well-performed miniseries that's well worth your time, especially if – like this reviewer – you're a little tired of passive politics or business as usual. In other words, give this a try if you're ready to explore an extreme version of powerful lives spent behind closed doors, whether they're in a classroom, a bedroom, or in a governmental meeting since it's all politics anyway and everything is a bit right and left-wing as is, even if they swear their affiliations remain firmly in the opposite direction.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com
Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: TV on DVD