“This is England” is the acclaimed film directed by Shane Maddows. It deals with the skinhead and far right culture of the 1980´s in the UK. The story turns around twelve year old Shaun, who doesn´t have an easy life. The boy lost his father in the Falkland wars and gets bullied in school. He eventually finds a friend in Woody and his skinhead gang. Although seeming rough from the outside, the group is not really dangerous and more interested hanging out and smoking weed than anything else. Shaun becomes an accepted member of the gang, due to which he also has his first love interest with a girl (the scene in which Shaun makes out with a much older girl is the by far the most disturbing sequence of the whole movie). Up to that point “This is England” is a normal film and I found myself repeatedly in the situation of double checking if I was watching the right movie, since nothing seemed to be linked to my area of interest (Nazism today). Everything changes, both for the story and for the audience, with the arrival of Combo, an older Skinhead, who is just released from prison. Combo manages very quickly to convince some members of the group- one of them being Shaun. to follow his more aggressive and now openly racist strategies. The skinhead groups is now under a new leadership, terrorizes local Pakistani grocery stores and spends its time to spray racist graffiti on walls. As the film goes by the viewer becomes an insight into Combo´s personality and his struggle with rejection and lack of love. In a very powerful scene towards the end of the film, Combo almost kills a group member because he lives in a stable social environment. Due to this incident, Shaun understands the superficiality and brutality of the movement and decides to turn his back on it.
I have to say that the film really touched me. “This is England” is an intelligent piece that deals very effectively with the issue of racism and white supremacy in the United Kingdome. At a specific point of the movie, one of the skinheads said “we are not Nazis- we are nationalists”- which I found very interesting since my last blog post did just deal with the issue of nationalism which can be compared to the rise of fascism as far as I am concerned. This becomes even clearer at a scene where the group attends a speech which is comparable to Goebbels famous speech at the end of the second world war (“Do you want the total war… ?). At the end it becomes clear that the reason for Combo´s racist and hostile views and actions is a lack of love, which he tries to receive through a group that is in the exact same situation. Shaun fits in this scheme because he has found a father figure in Combo but at the end, he realises that he is better off on his own. The film, finally, can be summed up with a quote by Leon Brown: “A lack of love is the cause for most problems in life, when love is missing, nothing can flourish, only pain thrives.”