Film Style of Mike Leigh
I believe that films which are one of the most important part of the electronic media, other than serving the purpose of being profit generating and entertaining have a greater purpose of being “organic. ” By organic one could refer to a substance or an object which has roots and grows through the power of nature. Similarly, films provide a very significant purpose of depicting the truth of the society, in showing how any ordinary man lives his routine life.
A film which thus remembers its roots is only able to grow and be fruitful for a long period of time since its growth would continue for a long period of time to come. Such is the art possessed by Mike Leigh of displaying original organic art through his films. Many people are born around the world possessing multi talents, however only a handful of individuals are able to excel and gain fame from all their fields; of such few individuals Mike Leigh also possesses such a unique ability, to shine in every field which he plans to conquer.
Born on 23 February, 1943, in an English family, he in just 65 years of life, excelled as a playwright, screenwriter, and most fondly as a director. As a graduate from Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and early experience with Royal Shakespeare Company, he started of from being a theatre director and playwright, floating into the television stream and got most loved for his television films such as Topsy Turvy (1999), All or Nothing (2002), and Secret Lies (1996). (Holcombe, 2005)
One of the basic styles adapted by Leigh which makes his creations different from that of all other directors is that he starts of a project without any script or idea what so ever, but actually plays with the characters, the setting, situation and the socio political situation existing at the moment, creating a new story based completely upon reality out of scratch. His films focus upon the lives of ordinary people, facing the normal routine problems, of how he struggles through them and how he would be able to combat them.
However, some critics believe that extracting a script out of the characters themselves, gives him the levity of working less and placing the burden upon the actors themselves. Mike Leigh is a complete professional at his work, as seen through his academic record, in 1960 after winning a scholarship into the Royal Academy off Dramatic Arts; he attended the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Central School of Art and Design, and the London Film School.
(Holcombe, 2005) His first play was “Bleak Moment,” and later he started off directly as a playwright and stage director, his stage plays include, Smelling A Rat (1989), It’s A Great Big Shame, Greek Tragedy, Goose-Pimples (1982), Ecstasy (1989) and Abigail’s Party (1979). While some of his later famous television films include Nuts in May, Home Sweet Home and Vera Drake. (Simon, 2000).
His earlier plays such as Goose Pimples and Abigail’s Party focus upon the triviality of the society, mocking the middle class routine life and their attitudes, and it is his humorous irony which he very casually fits into his plays which highlight the absurdity of an ordinary man’s life. His later films were more concrete and focused upon the labor class, whereas his latest film Happy Go Lucky (2008) is a comedy which was nominated for the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
Most of his works depict a situation of crisis faced by his characters which by the end of the show have been revolutionized and accustomed into a success tale. Based on issues of socialism and humanism, Mike Leigh’s art symbolizes the life of an ordinary man, giving a voice to his problems. Leigh won the best director awards for Naked (1993), and Secret Lies (1996). The most ingenious aspect of Leigh’s work is his way of formulating his films.
He is famous for his elaborate improvisations and the mystery which he creates on the set as he does not reveal the end of the story upon his crew, thus allowing them to grow within their characters and become a true part of it, discovering their own destinies as it is revealed. Actors are further introduced to each other with the progress of the film, and he also tends to create intimate moments within the characters, which are not even intended to become a part of the film just to develop the feel and true essence upon the performers.
The final make of the film is more precise and professional, where the director continues to refer back to the improvisations during the recordings. However, critics call Mike Leigh as “less political person,” pointing out his way of personifying the characters and the climax rather than focusing upon the development of the story. He is also described as a pessimist, who portrays the sad, ill and poor human life indulged in gloominess and disgrace, and hardly ever would his characters attain self satisfaction and abundance in life.
And similarly goes his television film, “Nuts in May,” featured as BBC’s Plays for Today series on 13 January 1976, written and directed by Mike Leigh, the film is a simple comedy revolving around a nature loving couple, who are out for a camping trip and how they face controversies and problems within each other and how different situations spring around them as other vacationers set up their camps around them, depicting a couples routine life in a very simple and inventive manner. (Rea, Darren 2008)
The film takes it name from the nursery rhyme, “Nuts in May,” which talks about how a gathering of friends occurs to welcome the summers and how they would all enjoy themselves along with the blooming weather. Similarly, as Leigh himself says that his plays are meant for every ordinary person, they are to be taken personally, he doesn’t mock his characters but in reality is mocking us as individuals living our normal lives, of how we complicate our lives, and when they are seen from a third person’s view are found funny and humorous.
The plot revolves around Keith and Candice Marie, who go out camping to discover the nature and its calmness when their peace is disturbed by Ray, a loner student who plays his radio out loud and disrupts fights in the couple when Candice starts to show a little interest in him. To make the situation even worse, another couples sets up their camp near by, who are hyper and love drinking and going crazy by the night.
The film ends with the couple returning early from their trip, exasperated and tired from their uncanny and unanticipated experience. “Nuts in May,” is a commentary upon the lives of normal people, especially how their attitude towards their neighbors. No matter Keith is shown to be disgusted by the immature and light behavior of other campers, he appears to lack the fact of his selfishness, coldness and lack of communication skills.
It also depicts the theme of how Keith gets irritated by any human contact and of how he is insecure of providing happiness and care for his wife. Moreover, it shows that the couple’s relation was more like a parent daughter thing rather than that of husband and wife. Candice appears to be innocent, and careless young girl who works at a toy shop, and requires constant attention and care, while Keith takes over the dominant role, of being manly and making all the decisions solely like a parent.
Ray Carney (2000) in his article, “The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World,” states that “Keith and Candice-Marie’s dietary and behavioral eccentricities are symptoms of a state of imaginative derangement that, in Leigh’s view, runs throughout society. ” These characters have instilled themselves from the world by adapting pre formulated ideas and conditions into their lives, without living into a world which they themselves would like to create. They don’t tend to live an intellectual nor a lovable relation but rather live I according to the norms and ideas of how a relationship should be lived up to.
Its all written in the travel guides, the cooking books and the conventional ideas somebody else they heard speak, as to where they would go, what and how they will eat and how they would react to each other, coming from prior or secondary knowledge. According to Leigh, if a person takes his opinions and feelings out of himself, he starts to live into a materialistic and am artificially created world, loosing track of who you in real are. In it is not through their contradiction between their original personalities and their words that we learn about them, but is through unresponsive and cold characters.
However, one could easily apply Keith to his own life, of how easily we are convinced by the remarks and advices we find around ourselves, and are readily convinced to settle them in our lives if they even slightly suite us, ignoring the ethics or logic attached to them, thus targeting our societies blindness. Many perceive Leigh’s later movies such as “Abigail’s Party” and “Who is who,” as continuations of “Nuts in May,” providing answers and elaborating issues that be brought up in his earlier movie.
However, “Nuts in May,” has been greatly acknowledged as movie which analyzes the issues and problems of a normal couple, witnessing complications and little troubles in their life, which continue to seep in quietly. The film has also been ranked 49th in the list of 100 Greatest British Television Programs by the British Film’s Institute. (British Film’s Institute, 2000) However, it is the style and the work of the director, Mike Leigh that through his creativity and sense makes even a vegetarian couple out on a camping trip seem interesting.
Mike Leigh is commonly called as “the Social Services Employee,” and nobody could be more aptly named than him, his films are not just a formula for generating him revenue and clicking on the box office, but they are more appropriately a recipe to diagnose problems by an ordinary man through his life, and figure out solutions which would help him living a happier and successful life. References British Film’s Institute. (2000) 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. Retrieved February 14, 2009 from http://en. wikipedia.
org/wiki/100_Greatest_British_Television_Programmes Carney, R. (2000). The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. Holcombe, G. (2005). Mike Leigh. British Council. England. Retrieved from http://www. contemporarywriters. com/authors/? p=authC2D9C28A1b0d427815kSj429BD6A Rea, Darren (2008). Nuts in May (1976). BFI Screen online. Retrieved from http://www. screenonline. org. uk/tv/id/548293/index. html Simon, A. (2000). Mike Leigh: The Lord High Executioner Speaks Out. Venice Magazine.Sample Essay of Edusson.com