IF…. is at the Cambridge Film Festival for its 50th anniversary, a classic subversive British cult film that is directed by Lindsay Anderson (O LUCKY MAN!, 1979) and stars Malcolm McDowell (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, 1971) and David Wood (ACES HIGH, 1976). It won the Palme d’Or in 1969.

IF…. follows the story of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) through his school life at an English public school; he has to survive in this toxic environment full of sadistic prefects and deluded teachers. One of the first movies to predict the French student riots, the film shows the brutal treatment of school children in the 60s. The film is not for the faint of heart, it shows you the brutal harsh reality that the students have to go through.  But it’s a story that needed to be told.

Before the film, David Wood, who plays Johnny in the movie, gave an introduction in which he talked about the many people who, after the film’s release, have come up to him and told them of their own experiences. Telling him , ‘This was exactly how it was.’ It stands as testament to the acting of all the ‘crusaders’ and Lindsay Anderson that this film can still be impactful today. A collective breath was taken by the audiences as the infamous ‘whipping scene’ played, showing that the scene still leaves a lasting impression.

Don’t despair, though, the whole film is not all sadness and misery. The more difficult scenes of the film are relieved through dark comedy. It is for all intents and purposes a satire. A very dark and serious one, but a satire none the less. The hypocrisy and ignorance of the teachers and ‘the whips’ is entertaining. How can these people run a school when they can hardly do basic tasks? The teachers are incompetent, droning on about points and then moving on to something hardly relevant.

If you feel like this film will be pretentious, don’t be worried: the narrative is clear and precise. It is easy to follow and is clear and easy to understand. However, for film buffs, IF…. offers arthouse and fantastical elements as well as fascinating one-takes and a wide variety of shots.

This film will leave you with a lasting question that you will be thinking about days after the film has ended: What If….

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