Historian Arthur Marwick (1996, p. 9) has indicated that the strong disturbances in politics and social conditions of the 1960s had a deep impact on British society. This impact in many different ways was as significant as the upheavals produced by the Second World War. As a result, the 1960s saw a rapid spread of many trends, such as the new developments in youth culture; protection of the interests of consumers; official concern about a system of moral principles; permissiveness; and the continuance of class and racial collisions (Moore-Gilbert 1992, p.
89). During this period British New Wave cinema was born. It emerged from the social and cultural upheaval of the late 1950s and experienced a break with past themes and cinematic traditions. The New Wave film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning directed by Karel Reisz, film adaptation of the novel by Alan Sillitoe, was given its premiere on 26 October 1960. The film enjoyed considerable commercial success both in Britain and America.
Main Body Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was a product of the New Wave of British film-making at the turn of the 1960s. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning brought instant expression of critical enthusiasm about its leading actor – Albert Finney in the role of Arthur Seaton, as well as applause galore for a number of supporting actresses among which were Rachel Roberts, Shirley Anne Field, and Hylda Baker.
Like many New Wave films of that period, it had provincial setting and hermetically closed working-class environment. In addition, the film was starkly made in black and white. Alan Sillitoe’s script for the film was denied his planned reference to an impressive abortion scene, even though this can be found in the original 1958 novel. During the 1960s controversies involving the BBFC were connected more with depictions of sex and violence than on political scenes as during World War I.
Alan Sillitoe expressed resentment long and hard about the censorship that Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was subjected to at the hands of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC). Writing in the pages of the New Left Review in the same month, July 1960, when the completed film went before the film censors for final review and award of an appropriate certificate, he claimed: “It seems to me that censorship in the British film industry is in its own way as hidebound as that of Soviet Russia.
” Considering this situation some twenty years later, the author was sure that the pre-production corrections imposed on his script had been excessively “harsh”, “unnecessary”, and had “distorted the tenor of the film”: “The film script of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning made many journeys to and from the British Board of Film Censors (no British hypocrisy about the name) before it was finally passed as fit to be made. ” Actually, he had substantial reason to express displeasure.
Though seen in the beginning as just another product of “the new school of Young Writers Speaking for the People”, he was before long considered as to be a provider of nothing less than “blatant and very trying Communist propaganda” (Sillitoe 1960, pp. 58-9). A script of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was first sent by Woodfall Productions to the BBFC in November 1959. In this, Sillitoe followed quite closely his original novel, though there was an unavoidable compression in some scenes and the number of actors presented in the film.
It did not cut, particularly, reference to an abortion scene. In the abortion scene the married Brenda successfully terminates the unwanted pregnancy that resulted from a romantic and sexual relationship with her husband’s fellow worker, Arthur Seaton. This script clearly did not meet with the formal agreement of the BBFC’s readers in the 1960s. Sex and violence figured noticeably, surely, however, the matters of ‘language’ and abortion were of supreme importance.
To the last moment, the production company tried to reciprocate and to meet the BBFC’s needs and requirements regarding the script. The film went into production with a scenario which proved to be a typical mixture of compromise, absolute acceptance of the BBFC’s demands, and a decent amount of firmness. Realism is a key concept for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The film’s realism is based on the depiction of working-class life which speaks for and about a particular region. Arthur Seaton commands the affection of cinema-goers, making the film a box-office success.
Alexander Walker (1974) appropriately describes Arthur as “unrepentantly sexy in a repressive community, sharper than his mates, tougher than the pub brawlers he worsts, anti-romantic in his view of women as providing a night’s pleasure, reconciled to paying the penalty for his pleasure, but resistant to all life could do to him” (pp. 83-4). Arthur has a personal outlook: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down. What I’m out for is a good time; all the rest is propaganda”. He is presented as an original product of working-class abundance.
He condemns openly the system (the collector of taxes, the bosses, compulsory military service). He is against the idea of the ‘good old days’ (the sentimentalization of the squalid overcrowded houses). But he is not favouring extreme or fundamental changes in political, economic, and social conditions. He is an absolutely self-centred wage-earning advocate of individualism with money to save and spend, who drinks himself absurdly, leads astray a fellow worker’s wife and exhibits no concern for anybody but himself.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a vigorous celebration of the ‘rough’ working-class moral values of immediate pleasures (through sex, alcohol, sport and scuffles) (Mayer 2003, p. 120). Sound and image were integrated in a very sophisticated manner in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, as when Arthur Seaton is being chased by the furious husband of his lover, and the husband’s army friends who are as well close on Arthur’s heels.
This moment relies on the juxtaposition of fluid and static shooting, editing for excitement felt at the approach of the climax, faint lighting and a soundtrack almost completely without dialogue which is appropriate for the images at momentous points, including well-known fairground music, jazz, pop music and absence of sounds. Writing in 1960, Charles Barr described this moment as “perhaps the best ten minutes in any British film”, claiming that Reisz, “free to take his time, and to assert his personality as a director…has moved successfully from documentary to fiction” (Barr 1997, p.
89). Location camerawork was another distinguishing component, with many sequences totally given to displaying the industrial landscape, exposing to view authorial rather than narrative motivation (Hill, 1986, pp. 129-32). There is a central emphasis on working-class characters as essential protagonists and a concern in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The attempt was made to present the class question on a more sophisticated level than in previous movies in the 1950s, exposing the fact that Britain was to a great extent society with distinct classes (Street 1997, p.
90). The film reveals a progressive image of society in that period considerably concerning the problems of young men who feel trapped by a class background, trying to find an flowing freely lifestyle which will enable them to forget all about class barriers and marriage responsibilities of that time. Arthur Seaton refuses to accept what he sees as the conforming values of his working class and rises to a sense of personal, individual mode of existence (Marwick 1984, p. 127). Conclusion
The 1960s was an exciting and significant period for British cinema, producing many New Wave films. In fact, this period can be described as a time when there were “a greater number of significant and exciting films made in Britain than at any time before or since” (Murphy, 1992, p. 278). This essay examined one of such films, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. This was box-office as well as crucial success. Analysis of this film demonstrated direct link between the industrial context, film production, and new kinds of representation of gender and sexuality in the 1960s.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning kills the hope that working-class life as a whole can be changed. Only not ordinary individualists can try to escape, and usually fail to do this.
Barr, C, Ealing Studios, London and Devon: Cameron and Tayleur, David and Charles, 1977. Hill, J, Sex, Class and Realism: British Cinema 1956-63, London: British Film Institute, 1986. Marwick, A, ‘Room At The Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the “cultural revolution” in Britain,” Journal of Contemporary History, 19, 1984, pp.
127-52. Marwick, A, British Society Since 1945 (2nd edn), London: Penguin, 1990. Mayer, G, Guide to British Cinema, Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 2003. Moore-Gilbert, B, Cultural Revolution? The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s, Routledge: New York, 1992. Murphy, R. Sixties British Cinema, London: British Film Institute, 1992. Sillitoe, A, “What Comes on Monday? ,” New Left Review, 4, 1960, pp. 58-9. Street, S, British National Cinema, Routledge: London, 1997. Walker, A, Hollywood, England, Reprinted 1986, London: Harrap, 1974.Sample Essay of EduBirdie.com