Daily Archives: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

  • Filth Jon S Baird (2013 Scot Ger Swe )

    Filth Jon S Baird (2013 Scot Ger Swe ) James McAvoy

    Viewed Empire Cinema newcastle upon Tyne 17 Oct 13 ticket: £6.40
    Now here’s a funny thing: when I left the cinema after seeing
    Filth, protagonist Bruce Robertson’s catch phrase: Same rules apply
    – kept on ringing about in my head. Whenever Robertson did the
    dirty on some poor sap who crossed his path, he would quip: ‘Same
    rules apply’ Although I didn’t quite get it at first, the phrase got
    me thinking about Rules which I presume is what both Director Jon
    Baird and writer Irvine Welsh, who wrote the novel, intended.

    The opening sequences of Filth introduce two locations : the
    bedroom and the police station, settings which provide much of the
    film’s action. Bottoms up and bottoms down you might say; sex and
    power lie at the heart of the film’s concern. In the opening
    sequence of Filth we see a sexy woman provocatively dressing and
    talking about power being the ultimate turn on and how she keeps hold
    of her policeman husband by playing the tease. The scene providies a
    significant cue that sex as a power tool would play hard ball in this

    The second sequence of shots introduces the protagonist Bruce
    Robertson of the Edinburgh CID as, during a breifing for a murder
    case, he leeringly appraises and evaluates his rivals for promotion.

    In the screen tradition of Touch of Evil, LA Confidential and Joe
    Orton’s Loot, I had thought that Filth would feature police
    corruption in its narrative. But in the same way that at a given
    level Welsh’s Trainspotting is not about drug dealing, so Filth is
    not about police corruption. It’s not even about the police.
    Although its key setting might be the Edinburgh CID, this is not
    central to the situation that Baird set ups and develops. The plot
    hinges on the manipulations and gambits made by Bruce Robertson in
    his attempt to secure promotion to the rank of Detective Inspector.
    As a promotion competition the plot could be set inside any corporate
    body: Amazon, BA Systems, Ford or some large Council.

    Filth is grounded not so much in particiulars as in universals.
    Same rules apply. Filth is not concerned with the particular
    relations and practices engendered by the police in their role as the
    interface between Society and the Law. Filth’s focus of concern is
    raw competition; the battle between men for scare resources: the
    battle for Promotion. An indivisible prize only one man or woman can
    In Filth. Baird probes the state of our society in a manner that
    might be philisophically grounded in the writings of Thomas Hobbes,
    the 17th century political philosopher. Although Hobbes
    was writing to justify the state, his ideas can be transposed to any
    level of catastrophic social disintegration. In the 20th
    and 21st centuries Welsh and Baird realise that it is the
    break down at the micro level of social ordering which is leading to
    chaotic social conditions. The disappearance of collective
    institutions, with their values and structures, in the face of
    attack by sociopathic individualism. A collapsed social situation
    that is well summed up by Hobbes: “it is manifest
    that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all
    in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a
    war as is of every man against every man.”
    The moral consequences of this break down of social order provides
    the framework for Filth. In vacuum caused by break down of the moral
    order, the sociopath fills the gap. In persuit of promotion Bruce
    Robertson is at war with everyone, and as war has become the default
    state: same rules apply.
    As is the case in the bedroom where sex is persued both as a war
    strategy and as a basis of personal identity. With sex and power
    linked, sexual relations also become located within the chaotic
    conditions of the war of all against all and become the centre of a
    dysfunctional self identity. Like drugs sex can be both adictive and
    subject to what Bill Boroughs calls the bitch of tolerance: you
    always need more of a substance to get the same effect.

    As Filth develops Bruce needs more sex. Detached from feeling,
    his power play sex becomes an increasingly isolated masturbatory
    ritual . Sex drives Bruce into a kind of blindness, a black hole
    through which light neither enters nor leaves.

    As constructed by Baird and Welsh Filth is a dystopian fable
    grounded in the breakdown of the micro order. interesting
    that at the beginning of the film the audience were laughing at the
    slightest sugestion of a smutty joke or risque reference; at the end
    of the movie, there was not much laughter. Hobbes is worth
    quoting again as he summerises human life in relation to the
    conditions of the war of all against all: (quote) ‘ in this condition
    the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and
    short.’ Which is a accurate desciption how Baird and Welsh have
    mapped the moral career of Bruce Robertson.

    So: Same rules apply….what does it mean? It’s
    telling you there are ‘no rules’. So watch out.
    Adrin Neatrour