Wednesday, 16 September 2015
"Samuel Vincent Nelson, you have been found guilty of crimes beyond the tolerance of any normal society. You have been guilty of a continuing inability to find work where there is none; a persistent and willful refusal to admit your inferiority to people who have more money than you; rejection of patently nonsensical government propaganda; drawing a moustache on the poster of the Prime Minister; and laughing at serious matters. No society that wishes to survive happily on lies can tolerate such evil in its midst. For what you have done there can be only one punishment. You will of course be shot. And may the government, the CBI, the Monday club, the women's rural institute and people in very big houses have mercy on your soul"
William McIlvanney's 1991 Screen Two film Dreaming may seem small, but it's big in heart. A young Ewen Bremner stars as 17 year old Glaswegian Sammy Nelson, a victim of Thatcher's Britain, he has a vivid imagination, a strong intellects, good morals and principles but no work and no opportunities. The film takes place over the course of one day which sees him drift through Glasgow ahead of another unsuccessful job interview in which he will be told once again that he's over-qualified and should consider university. His parents despair, Sammy Nelson's a dreamer; in more ways than one. The film conjures up inventive Billy Liar style daydream sequences such as the one I've quoted above (Nelson standing in the dock, and later the firing line, facing white masked surreal authority figures) that explore a multitude of genres including silent movie, film noir, opera, Guys and Dolls style musical (the latter is a real highpoint; set in the local bookies and featuring Jake D'Arcy's character summary of 'the genteel heavy' from Edinburgh who runs the show, complete with lyric "If he should fart in Stornoway, you'd smell the smell in Ayr") and French new wave (a very funny scene in which he attempts to bed girlfriend Shirley Henderson - they speak French in the breathless Je t'aime style, but their dialogue is subtitled in thick Glaswegian) Many of these dream sequences benefit greatly from several of Nelson's hero figures appearing as themselves; Billy Connolly, Deacon Blue and Marianne Faithful all cameo and perform songs, along with Nelson's enemy - Margaret Thatcher played by impressionist Steve Nallon. But what's equally clear about Nelson's daydreaming nature, is his more serious dreams of an equal and fairer society - he's a socialist, a political leaning he developed from his uncle who died young, and the film is shot through with a rousing streak of Red Clyde politics to highlight the injustices of the Thatcher regime to anyone north of Watford Gap.
Dreaming has never been released commercially or, to my knowledge, been repeated, but a very good copy of it is available to watch on YouTube. To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic plays please sign the petition I started here