Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Sense of Freedom - Filmhouse - 15/2/11

Screening as part of a short series of films about the representation of gangs in film this made for TV movie tells the story of infamous Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle; money lender, murderer and Scotlands most dangerous man for many years but also a man who found redemption in art.

The film delivers plenty of emotional punch and shocks with violence and scatalogical behaviour taking up much of the running time.  Even now some thirty years after its release the film manages to be difficult viewing at times, most especially during the prison scenes where Boyles own brutality is matched by the prison guards.  It's an old story...Glasgow is, notoriously, "no mean city" and one that has a long history of hard men but it is Boyles transformation from bad boy to establishment figure that sets him apart.

It isn't possible to watch "A Sense of Freedom" without asking questions about Boyle, the prison system and the type of society that creates a person capable of some of the things Boyle has done.  Nature versus nurture...was Boyle born bad?  Is he/was he evil?  Who or what was to blame?  Is it possible for a man like him to change?

Boyles name and his success as a writer and artist is enough to have some people foaming at the mouth...they are enraged by his new life and fame but surely he is the embodiment of what society claims to want; for people to become better, to change and to take a different path.

The role of Boyle is played by David Hayman who manages to convey a sense of danger whenever he is on screen and his hatred of the guards inside the various prisons he is detained in is worryingly realistic.  His ability to go from the life and soul of the party with his gangland chums to a screaming, ranting, shit flinging psychopath is a terrifying thing to watch.  Alongside a who's who of other Scottish stage and screen luminaries the film manages to give a sense of what Boyles life was like inside prison and how terrifying it must have been to be around him.

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