Monday 29 October 2012

iLL Manors (2012) - Ben Drew

“Put your seatbelts on ‘cause you’re in for a harrowing ride”, we’re informed by our rapping narrator, Ben Drew a.k.a Plan B.  This isn’t a warning to be taken lightly.

Set in London, iLL Manors has everything from drug use and prostitution to gang warfare and child abuse.  This urban safari certainly has the shock factor in an intense and frightening piece of social realism that reflects the darkest areas of contemporary society.  The plot overlays multiple narratives that intersect at key points, each strand depicting an endless cycle of actions and reactions.  Every debt paid must be repaid elsewhere, the characters’ lives spiralling out of control like the fast-motion camera effects.  Each dire situation is hopeless – even those who try to do the right thing cannot win.

What’s so horrifying is the authenticity of the film – one character is even labelled a “poster boy for David Cameron’s broken Britain”.  This realism extends to the cinematography, such as the use of mobile phone footage for brutal fight scenes.  Each character is seen through home video flashbacks as children, emphasising the fact they are still youths at heart.  Orphans and abused children, their descent into a life of crime has a crushing inevitability.  Moreover, these sorts of events are currently occurring in deprived areas across the UK and the frightening consequences are very real.

As you’d expect, music is very much integrated into the film, not just as soundtrack but within the storytelling from our director-narrator, almost like an extended music video.  Drew has certainly combined his passions for music and film into one cohesive vision that’s less entertaining and more of an eye-opening experience.

Special mention must go to the Mercury nominated album.  If last year’s winner, PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’, looked to the past for inspiration, then ‘iLL Manors’ is a contemporary home front in a financial and cultural war between social classes.  After London 2012, it would seem counterintuitive to see such negative views of our capital winning awards, despite the album's strengths.  Like the film, the album is a tough but powerful statement that, amidst the general patriotic positivity of Britain at the moment, there are still helpless voices crying out to be heard.