Monday, 5 March 2018
You might think that the 1982 film Remembrance is like the buses. Rarely seen since its release, you wait for ages for a screening and then two come along at once! The film was Gary Oldman's big screen debut and Film Four screened it in January to coincide with the release of Darkest Hour. Now, as it's been announced that Oldman bagged Best Actor at the Oscars last night, it's on Film Four again tonight in the early hours - at 1:35am to be precise.
Directed by Colin Gregg, Remembrance, one of Film Four's first features, sees Oldman play a drunken and clearly troubled youth who arrives in the naval city of Plymouth just forty eight hours ahead of the fleet's deployment on a six month NATO exercise. Seizing their last chance of freedom and the opportunity to let their hair down are several young sailors who frequent the bars, discos and strip clubs on the notorious Union Street, all played by familiar faces such as John 'Nasty Nick' Altman, Nick Dunning, Ewan Stewart, Al Ashton, Dave Hill and Pete Lee-Wilson, and a few other faces whose talents sadly didn't stretch much beyond the '80s, such as David John (one of Ace's friends in Survival, the final Doctor Who story of the 'classic' era) and Martin Barrass. Standing on the periphery of the action is a young Timothy Spall, spending his last day in a more subdued manner, as his wife (Kim Taylforth, the sister of Altman's fellow EastEnder Gillian, aka Kathy Beale) is pregnant. It's worth mentioning however that this is definitely an ensemble piece, so anyone looking for a major showcase of Gary Oldman's talents will be disappointed. He has a very pivotal role that is vital to the plot, but his screen time overall probably runs to just 20-30 minutes.
The film offers a snapshot of life in Plymouth in what is essentially just twenty four hours and takes an even handed approach to its ensemble cast, cannily joining the separate strands of narrative into one pleasingly cohesive whole. Raw and earthy, the film is certainly evocative of its time both in terms of British society as a whole and the film industry too, especially as there are shades of Alan Clarke here and there. Perhaps it was hoped that Remembrance would do for the navy what Scum did for borstal?! The title itself alludes to a trip to the Royal Albert Hall's Festival of Remembrance the young sailors went on, which they captured for posterity on cine-camera and is shown over the title sequence, but it also refers to a crucial memory that gradually rises to the surface for Mark (David John) which becomes the key to Oldman's true identity. There's also the metaphor of such half forgotten memories lying beneath the surface of our subconscious, much like the submarines in Plymouth's harbour will soon be lying beneath the ocean.
Of course because this is so rare, the print televised by Film Four has really suffered. It's by no means unwatchable, but it is littered with flashes and scratches and little white crosses where I presume edits were put in place. The audio is also sometimes beset by pops and crackles, which I don't imagine were part of Brian Eno's soundtrack! What's odd is that last year, Plymouth University screened the film with, what they claimed, was a 'newly completed digital scan of the original print' - surely this ought to have been available for Film Four?