[1959] Room At The Top

Partly because television is afforded a wide net to expand or constrict its emotive output, but mostly because time heals/ruins all, an average two-hour time for a movie just cannot match the unfolding nature of a television program or, god forbid, a novel. The unscripted nature of reality television translates to the screen as ‘slice-of-life,’ virtually ignoring (save exposition) the setting before and after the film’s direct action sequences, but because of its constraints there can be no other way to tell a story. If we expand this notion, television and books act similarly, but the film medium, unlike any other, cuts in and out of time and deliberately expresses its message without frills or expectation. It is the essential aspect of film and deft filmmakers will achieve purpose though bounded by this constraint.

I am unsure at what point in recorded history, or between which points exactly, film’s audience depressed its desire for romanticism in favor of realism.

At some point in the first half of the 2oth century, whether it be technical or political limitation, film tended to focus on the distinction between serial drama and reality. From many angles, this method, cured and pruned, achieved success as allegory came to represent reality; almost any of the films I’ve previously reviews pre-1960 tend to be set in real-life places and times but with heavily fictionalized events or historical facets satirized and reworked as to remove the viewer from this experience and tell a story free of the constricting horror of life. We can theorize why this began to shift but in the late 1950s – 1958 to be exact – New Wave movements depicting cinéma vérité (“true” film) attempted to create a form of authorship investment in the film. Vérité‘s audiences were to experience action as if it would document each person’s individual history; it purposefully blurs “real” life and fictitious events in a documentary style. It is intended that the audience a. knows this fact but b. cannot differentiate. It is a meta-filmstyle, mirroring its own setting. Differences across cultures affect(ed) the manner in which films disseminate story, but 1959’s Room At The Top is a quintessential representation of British New Wave and, even as 55 years have limited its immediacy, we, audience, relate to the powerful themes in this story, not vicariously, but vividly.  Continue reading