Thursday, 21 March 2019

Director’s passion finally bears fruit

Director’s passion finally bears fruit

ONE of Britain’s greatest filmmakers returns with his most ambitious project yet — a striking portrayal of a pivotal moment in British history.

Mike Leigh brings to the big screen Peterloo, the story of the Peterloo Massacre on August 16, 1819, where a crowd of 60,000 gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand parliamentary reform and improved voting rights.

This peaceful protest was met with violence as government militia turned on the crowd — injuring over 700 men, women and children, and killing 18.

Although the film is released ahead of the 200th anniversary of the event, this is far more than a history lesson.

In an age of activism and the fight for equality, the messages from Peterloo are as vital today as ever. The assembled crowds fought for equal representation at a time when only a privileged few had the right to vote.

The story is also rich with urgency, as the protest inspired thousands to travel on foot from areas in Greater Manchester and beyond to fight for a better future and to lift the nation from laws that encouraged widespread poverty.

The courage of those prepared to stand up and make their voices heard echoes to this day.

The event was also a turning point for free speech in this country, changing the way people viewed democracy and the relationship between government and governed, and remains an overlooked but crucial moment in the evolution of Britain. The fallout even resulted in the establishment of the Manchester Guardian newspaper — now the Guardian.

Cinema fans will also rejoice at the return of Mike Leigh, four years on from the triumphant Mr Turner. The Oscar-nominated film showed Leigh at the top of his game, and with Peterloo he is working on a larger scale than ever before, in a historical epic that has huge significance for modern audiences. Peterloo is a passion project for Leigh, who grew up in Salford and has long wished to bring the subject to the big screen. This shows that after nearly 50 years as a film-maker, Leigh is as fired up as ever.

The director’s past work with ensembles makes him perfect to tell this story, and as you’d expect his cast is filled with the best of British acting talent, including award-winning stars of stage and screen Maxine Peake, Rory Kinnear and Phillip Jackson.

Rich in drama, spectacle and intensity, Peterloo is a must-see for those looking for thought-provoking, masterfully crafted cinema. At a time when people still fight to have their voices heard, this is a story that deserves to be seen and shared.

Peterloo is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

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