Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Directed by Karel Reisz
Cornerhouse, 27 June 2010
The late Alan Sillitoe (1928-2010) wrote the screenplay to this film of his classic debut novel, so lending it an added authenticity.
Salford’s Albert Finney plays Arthur Seaton, a Nottingham factory worker who rails against the confines of working class life but is not interested, either, in climbing the greasy pole of social advancement (so-called). His motto is ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’ and he’s determined to enjoy life.
Even now, Finney’s performance is powerful and surprisingly nuanced, especially in the scenes that he shares with Rachel Roberts (who plays Brenda, the married woman that he gets pregnant).
What we see is an England that seems almost like a vanished country: working class estates with cobbled streets, men who are away doing national service, women who aspire to live in houses with an inside toilet, pubs where you could get a pint glass with a handle… Hardly surprising, perhaps, since the film was made half a century ago.
At the end, Arthur is still defiant and has a lot of vital fight and cunning left in him. But he can see the future that is to come: no more ‘blackberrying’ in the hills he roamed as a lad, not for his son anyway. It is difficult indeed to see Arthur sticking out his factory job, and perhaps he’ll eventually wend his way to London, like Jim Bankley in Wide Boys Never Work, Robert Westerby’s great novel of the ‘30s.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is one of the great British films. Now to re-read the novel.