Alan Clarke first released Scum in 1977 as a BBC TV-film, yet the BBC disapproved of the film due to the amount of raw, harrowing realism which had been packed into a short running-time. Therefore the BBC banned the version, and it was not until fifteen years later that the TV-version was aired on the UK’s Channel 4. Though, to get around not being able to release the TV version of Scum Alan Clarke opted in for developing a remade, feature-length version to be aired at cinemas, this was released in 1979. The film sent shockwaves through cinemas across Britain, causing huge controversy from the media, government and British public. Some people saw the film as a “visceral image of a flawed system”, while others saw the film as “exploitive trash in the form of a documentary”.
Scum is a disturbing look at a British Borstal’s futile attempt at rehabilitating young offenders, the inmates of the Borstal range from adolescent teen to young adult. Most of them (if not all) have little hope in achieving anything in their life, except for just moving from prison to prison for their antisocial crimes. The film focuses of on brutality of a flawed and corrupt system whereby the inmates have no hope of rehabilitation due to the infantile regimes. The film shows how survival through brutality is the only way of getting through the system and even then there is still no sign of release for any of the prisoners. Thankfully in today’s Britain, Borstals are inexistent, since they were (as is quite apparent in Scum) deemed unfit for people, due to the despicable infliction of violence and vicious corruption.
Scum is undoubtedly a film which will prompt viewers to question to entire rehabilitation process used for society’s undesirables. Scum makes you wonder whether it is morally incorrect for even the most disgusting of individuals to get such vile treatment. As the brutal treatment is only prompting the individual to become even more sadistic and inhumane. The film details what men will do to “comply” with a system they loathe and how they will form their own rules and beliefs to suit the system in a way which will benefit them. There is a strong element of wasted talent etched into the film, this is in the respect of intelligent men who have potential, yet do not know how to use it. Scum takes you inside a world where young men have been reduced to their most primitive form; a place where violence breeds violence and respect is shown through class and power, rather than morals. I beg of you to think about what Scum is attempting to say and question through its subtext.
The performances from the entire cast are pulled off with raw, natural intensity. Ray Winstone’s debut performance as –nicknamed “the daddy”- Carlin is one of the most unflinching and uncompromising performances I have ever seen. It is a performance which bursts with adolescent rage and masochism. He is a boy who has been demoralised by the life he has grown up in. It is distressing to see a man of complex capabilities be destroyed by his primitive brutality, which has been forced upon him by the human instinct of survival.
The technical prowess of Scum helps to create and delve inside the bland, grim and unpleasant environment of the Borstal. Making the film feel even more genuine in its atmosphere through its documentary style editing and camera techniques, the use of long-haul, close-ups and tracking-shots add to the film’s aggressive ingenuity. In some of the more violent scenes of the film the camera is held for longer takes, which helps to provoke more emotional power. The camera feels somewhat intrusive, this is because of how Alan Clarke is achieving to shed light on a conformity situation people were afraid to question and examine, yet Alan Clarke is unadulterated when it comes to presenting realism and so tries to make his film-making as tight as possible. There is no use of score either, nor any form of music to accompany scenes, making scenes feel all the more haunting and prolonged.
Scum is an engrossing, convincing and complex example of British film-making at the top of its game. It is a story you will never forget, and remains a film which contains scenes that once viewed will be etched into the depths of your mind. Scum should be compulsory viewing for everyone as it remains a highly affective film of searing emotional intensity.
2.11GB | 1 h 37 min | 960×576 | mkv