1993 Year in Review: Movies
By Tim Roth
Edited by Jim McClellan
For me the most positive things about 1993 as far as films are concerned is that people have started to make decent movies again in Britain. The reason I left to go to America was because people weren't making the kind of films I wanted to be in. Actually they weren't making films period. For the last two months of '93, I've been in London shooting The Prisoner, which is about a lifer and his relationship with a woman on the outside. Aside from that I'm also probably going to do this picture about Protestant lads in Seventies Belfast. Channel 4 is funding it and the script is brilliant. I was also offered a part in a movie about football hooligans which the actor Phil Davis is planning to direct. I'd love to do it but I've already committed to another low-budget film in New York so I don't think I'll get the chance.
So there does seem to be a genuine resurgence. I just hope they're not all going to be shot like American movies. I hope they're going to have all the personality of the director on them and not just a vague idea about what sells in America. If you look back at stuff like Alfie or the Len Deighton films, Billion Dollar Brain, they were great partly because they were so British. The worst thing that could happen would be if 60 British kids all go out and try to write Reservoir Dogs-style scripts.
It's funny to come back and see what a big impression that film made here. Every journalist wants to talk about Reservoir Dogs. They start off talking about what they're supposed to talk about but they always end up coming back to Reservoir Dogs. The reason's pretty obvious-it's a great film. But beyond that its reputation here now has something to do with outside events, with the whole media panic about violence in films, with the fact that, as a result, it still hasn't been given a certificate for video release. I think Quentin probably enjoys the fact that it can't be seen on video over here. It only adds to the notoriety, so that when it does finally come out, everyone's going to want to see it. When the authorities do things like that, it just backfires on them.
The debate about screen violence in America was mainly sparked off by the Michael Medved book. His target was Hollywood in general. So it seems odd that here people have focused more on the independents, like Reservoir Dogs and Bad Lieutenant. A film like Reservoir Dogs shows that violence hurts, that it has effects, and that there are these people who do that kind of thing. It seems hypocritical to go after it and not something like Lethal Weapon. People seem to think that those films are making a lot of money, so why not go after the independents, which are actually tackling the subject in a different, more difficult way, and aren't making a lot of money, hence they can afford to go after them.
In general, I think you can't rely on state censorship. It's really dangerous-once it's started, where does it stop? And does it work? The American TV networks are heavily censored, but look at the amount of murders there every day. My feeling is that censorship should take place in the home. As a parent, aren't you supposed to protect your kids as you see fit? So rather than censor the film industry, perhaps they should educate parents. It's down to the film-makers to tell the truth. If we're going to do violent subjects, we should do it properly. Then it's up to parents. Don't let your kids see it if you don't want them to.
My son Jack (who's nine) has seen Reservoir Dogs. He couldn't avoid it, really. He was there while we were filming. So he knows that the blood wasn't real. On his own, he can break it down to that level, because he could see that I was laying in a pool of blood one minute and up and walking around the next . . . But I think you've got to go further than just saying this is how you make a film, this is what you make the blood out of etc. Things are being depicted up there that are disturbing aspects of humanity. That's what you talk about. There are things in Reservoir Dogs that Jack can see are horrible, that disturb him. They disturb me. So I've sat and taken him through it, discussed specific things with him, and he's pretty rational about it.
I had a discussion about all this with Quentin. When he was seven, he saw Deliverance, which is a pretty disturbing film to see at any time of your life. His mum took him to see it. I don't think she realised what kind of a film it was. I'm not sure what kind of effect it had on him. Perhaps it was one of the things that made him want to be a film-maker. I know Quentin thinks that children should be allowed to see whatever they want. I'm not sure. He hasn't got any kids. When he has, maybe he'll think differently.