Dramas, Enemies, Buddies, Coming Of Age, Gay/Lesbian, Social Issues, Theatrical Release
If... Criterion Collection Blu-ray Disc Description
Filmed at the time of the 1968 student uprising in Paris, Lindsay Anderson's IF. . . is one of the seminal films of the era of student revolt. The characters' direct psychological and emotional displays are an allegory for how individuals must either conform to or rebel against the autocratic authority that is imposed upon them in the face of a class-driven society. The microcosm for this allegory in IF... is College House, a typical English boarding school for boys 11-18 years of age. Malcolm McDowell makes a powerful debut in the role of Mick Travis, a student in his Junior year who becomes the leader of a student rebellion. The students are rebelling against the system which allows Senior prefects to control and discipline younger students--through physical beatings--for infractions of the schools arcane and arbitrary rules. When Mick is disciplined by the Seniors for his "bad attitude" he is punished in a harrowing scene which does not romanticize the violence he endures.
Divided into chapters with on-screen titles, Anderson methodically shows Mick's transition from adolescent rebelliousness--growing a mustache--to more serious revolt. Anderson uses surrealism, in a style similar to that of Bunuel or even Monty Python. For instance, the headmaster keeps the school chaplain in a large drawer in his office. Clearly inspired by Jean Vigo's ZERO FOR CONDUCT, IF. . . manages to give a realistic, unsentimental view of English public school life, while connecting--largely through McDowell's wonderfully sympathetic portrait of anguished youth--to the theme of personal freedom vs. social order.