The Peterloo massacre of 1819 is not a piece of history that is as well known as it should be. So director Mike Leigh sets out here to do a movie that will educate people on the subject. The story of how a peaceful protest for the rights of the people was brutally suppressed when the authorities, who were terrified of the prospect of Britain having a revolution just like France had, overracted.
In the days when the story took place, not all men could vote. No women could. There were food shortages. The corn laws were causing problems. And people laboured for long long shifts in the mills for a pittance in wages. This was a long time before workplace health and safety as well, although it doesn't actually touch on that as much as you might have expected.
Manchester didn't have a police force. Or an MP. King George the third was unwell. And the prince regent was regularly embarrassing himself.
People could be sent to Australia for what we would now call a petty crime. Or hung.
There were those who wanted change, and they were called reformers. It was the efforts of some to get change that led to the meeting being arranged in the first place.
It's a long film, this, but that's because it takes it's time in explaining all of this. And since the director's aim was to educate and fill in knowledge gaps around this, that's fine. It is quite clever how it gets in details of the corn laws and habeas corpus. And let's be honest, if you asked a random sampling of people these days what the latter is, you might not find many who know.
It shows the magistrates and politicans, who are terrified of change. It shows the Prince Regent. In a very accurate depiction. And the ordinary working class folk. It's grim up north might be a stereotype, so it doesn't hurt to be remind what was fact at the time.
There's a lot of speakers. And speech making. And a fair few characters, who do drift in and out. But steadily, you get used to them. And the whole thing builds a momentum, so when it gets to the point where the protest is beginning, it becomes a hard watch as you know what is going to happen.
None of which will prepare for you the actual massacre, a superbly directed scene that will stay with you for a while.
It ends as best it can after, and the last scene was probably the right way to do such.
The great thing about this is that it does make you think. About rights and things that we do tend to take for granted these days. it will make you want to learn more as well. I was straight onto Wikipedia after to find out more about Henry Hunt.
But it's not hard to follow. So long as you're prepared to use your brain and concentrate. So if you are prepared to give this a chance, you will be well rewarded.
Drama / History
Drama / History
An epic portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history. The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.
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March 08, 2019 at 09:15 PM