REVIEW: Clanker Man
– By Allan Lear
***The opinions stated in this review are not necessarily the opinions of the The Slaughtered Bird. (They are – BlueTook, Editor)
Right now it’s the run-up to the General Election here in the UK. I’ve had two scraps of paper through my door in as many days warning me that Jeremy Corbyn might win the election if I don’t vote for Theresa May, which just goes to show that the Conservative Party hasn’t really understood what constitutes a ‘warning’. Corbyn might not be my favourite politician ever, but compared to Theresa May – a pale wraith of Margaret Thatcher without the rampant strict-nanny whip-me-beat-me sex appeal that had the tiny minority of heterosexual Old Etonians quivering in their overburdened corsetry – I’d happily vote for a stuffed marmoset on wheels if I thought it would keep my marginal constituency in the red.
Of course, May might combine the title of least convincing Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain with the title of least convincing Home Secretary in history, having once failed to understand the difference between a cat and a fiancée, but she’s only the fragile greenish-yellow tip of the festering, purulent boil that is the Tory Party. Their drive for election is predicated on the belief that the Labour Party has a poor track record with the economy, but their current form is that they’ve doubled the national debt while slashing services and gleefully murdering the disabled. Everyone knows that the Tories are evil, but the flimsy rationale for voting for them is that they are solid on the economy. Well, what’s the excuse for voting for this shower of cack-handed bunglecunts when all they’ve achieved with their ideologically-driven, economically illiterate so-called “austerity” policies is to raise the number of food bank users in the UK by a factor of ten in seven years?
Of course, it’s not just the people on the rough end of slashed services that feel the pinch, although by god are they feeling it. Have you counted the number of homeless people on the streets in your nearest city recently? That’s because mental health services have been all but eradicated, because no private company will touch them with a stick heavily marinated in risperidone. But it’s also the people who deliver the services who get the wet end of the deal. Nurses’ pay has shrunk by thousands in real terms thanks to a series of derisory 1% pay rises that remain well below the rate of inflation, and every other area of the public sector is feeling the strain as well. Meanwhile we pay, in real terms, four times the subsidies to the privatised railways that we paid to the old nationalised British Rail and wonder why the staff go on strike when we try to axe their jobs.
Clanker Man – yes, I have been talking about the film all this time – is predicated on this very notion, that increasingly overworked, underfunded and utterly unappreciated public sector workers are being pushed to and beyond their limits. But unlike the above tirade, it doesn’t beat the viewer over the head with the harsh realities of the situation. Instead, it’s an opaque satire, a work of what purveyors of literary gibberish are pleased to call “magical realism” or “urban folklore” or “gritty cobblers”.
Co-writer/actor Eli Silverman plays Terry, a low-level functionary for some unnamed subsector of the civil service whose job it is to make reality seem…real. Working with skill and subtlety, they decorate the urban land- and soundscape with the unconsidered minutiae of discarded moments: a lost glove perched helpfully on a railing; a book peculiarly discarded atop a bus stop; a strange, staccato clanking noise in the middle of the night. Terry, however, is starting to creak at the seams – his department is being cut back, and the demarcation between specialties is falling apart. Terry is being made to do work he feels is outwith his capabilities, and the stress is beginning to make itself felt.
Clanker Man is a ten-minute short film short in the mockumentary format reminiscent of Bad News Tour, with a single camera point-of-view taking us through Terry’s day as he haphazardly attempts to fulfil the various duties his role has expanded to contain. Silverman plays the part much like Martin Freeman in The Office, not as a hysterical moaner but as a frustrated everyman locked in a titanic struggle with the moronic forces of bureaucracy. It’s a perfectly-judged performance and it adds a lot to the script, brief reaction shots eloquently stating what would otherwise need lines and lines to get across to the viewer. A particularly fine moment comes when Terry fails to perform a task that is outside his remit; Silverman delivers an almost blank, quietly sad look to camera that communicates “You see? You see what I have to put up with?” without overselling it in the slightest.
Times of economic depression, national malaise and general despondency are theoretically good times for satirists, although as always it tends to be the case that one has to seek them out rather than being presented with them on a platter by the anaemic and fence-sitting televisual medium. Clanker Man is an excellent modern satire and a cautionary tale about what happens to the people who keep the world’s wheels turning when the state begins to squeeze. Altogether it is an achievement of which the creators can be proud.
Unlike fucking Brexit…