Bill Douglas Trilogy DVD
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Directed by Bill Douglas
Produced in 1972-1978
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Stephen Archibald, Hughie Restorick, Bernard McKenna, Jean Taylor Smith, Paul Kermack
Comprises My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973) and My Way Home (1978).
Douglas' award-winning Trilogy is one of the most compelling accounts of childhood ever filmed. The narrative is largely autobiographical, following Jamie (played with heart-breaking conviction by Stephen Archibald) as he grows up in a poverty-stricken mining village in post-war Scotland. In these brutal surroundings, and subject to hardship and rejection, Jamie learns to fend for himself. We see him grow from child to adolescent – angry and bewildered, but playful, creative and affectionate.
In My Childhood (1972), 8 year-old Jamie lives with his granny and elder brother in a Scots mining village in 1945. With his mother in a mental home, and his father absent, he is subject to the hardships of poverty. In My Ain Folk (1973), Jamie is sent to live with his paternal grandmother and uncle; a life full of silence and rejection. My Way Home (1978) sees Jamie’s ultimate victory over his circumstances; after a spell in foster care, and a homeless shelter, he is conscripted into the RAF, where he embarks on a redemptive friendship with Robert, which allows him to emerge from his ineffectual adolescence to pursue his artistic ambition.
Watching the Trilogy is far from a depressing experience. This is cinematic poetry: Douglas contracted his subject matter to the barest essentials – dialogue is kept to a minimum, and fields, slag heaps and cobbled streets are shot in bleak monochrome. Yet with its unexpected humour and warmth, the Trilogy brims with clear-eyed humanity, and affection for an ultimately triumphant young boy.
Length: 175 mins
Aspect ratio: 1:1.33 (4:3) Standard
Cat No: BFIVD732
Format: DVD B&W
Subtitles: English HoH
- 2 discs
- Bill Douglas: Intent on Getting the Image (2006, 63 mins), a new documentary about Bill Douglas’s life and work
- Come Dancing (1970, 15 mins), Douglas’s remarkable, rarely-seen student short
- Rare archive interview with Bill Douglas
- Illustrated booklet containing newly commissioned essays, notes and credits.
by Michael Brooke on 3rd June 2008
The cinema’s greatest poets often died young: think of Jean Vigo or Humphrey Jennings. And while Bill Douglas survived till his fifties, his entire body of work takes ... Read on
The cinema’s greatest poets often died young: think of Jean Vigo or Humphrey Jennings. And while Bill Douglas survived till his fifties, his entire body of work takes just six hours to view, a testament of the difficulty of securing funding for such uncompromising films.
Aside from the 1987 feature Comrades, virtually the entire oeuvre is collected on these DVDs which, in addition to the trio of spare, bleak films from the 1970s that made his reputation, also include an early film-school short (Come Dancing, 1969), an interview, and Andy Kimpton-Nye’s hour-long documentary Bill Douglas – Intent on Getting the Image.
The trilogy itself was made over a period of six years for a tiny budget (£50,000 total, not per title) and shot on black-and-white 16mm in Douglas’s birthplace, the Edinburgh suburb of Newcraighall. With My Childhood (1972), he started as he meant to go on. Though the protagonist is named Jamie, he’s clearly Douglas himself, and his evocation of a deprived childhood at the end of World War II mined painful memories as Jamie flees his dysfunctional family for friendship with a German POW. His close relationship with his maternal grandmother is abruptly curtailed by her death, and My Ain Folk (1973) picks up the story as he tries to escape being taken into care. Despite the incongruous Technicolor opening, it’s the trilogy’s most despairing film, setting up a series of situations that leave him with no-one to turn to. Five years later, My Way Home (1978) showed him taking his first hesitant steps into adulthood, discovering the world of jobs and National Service, the latter finally unlocking the door both to foreign travel (Egypt) and his future career as he is befriended by a far more privileged Englishman who encourages his nascent cultural interests.
If this sounds like a stock “we had it tough” memoir of a kind that’s become all too familiar in recent years, nothing could be further from the truth: with an aesthetic developed from Soviet silent cinema and the European art-movie tradition, Douglas is Britain’s answer to Robert Bresson, and fully worthy of that exalted comparison. Hide
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