The Committee

Dir: Peter Sykes, 1968. Starring: Paul Jones, Tom Kempinski, Robert Lloyd. Drama/Music.
The Committee

There is no greater cinematic seduction than that of black and white film. Something about the absence of color helps you tune into so many other things and lose yourself in the screen; the images seem so much more complete and the messages come through clearly. While this film is fairly short, I feel even more excited about the filmmaker's ability to eliminate fluff and find that the choice to make your point quickly will never go out of fashion. In fact, the movie reminded me of a sci-fi picture without the excess and flash. The most charming part about The Committee is that it is a confident work that flaunts only that sense of assured storytelling.

The movie is from the '60s and known mainly for its groovy/intellectual soundtrack by Pink Floyd, and for the fact that it attacks conformism and politics within societies. It opens with a quote on free will and Britain's collective position on both revolt and passive submission. It then moves on to a young man (Paul Jones) hitchhiking across woodlands who is picked up by a talkative egoist (Tom Kempinski). When the men stop to check on the car, the young man beheads the driver, then puts his head back on and leaves the scene. He returns to the city and his dull job as an architect and receives a summons to attend a committee. Rumor has spread that committees are complex gatherings in the country. As little as eight and as many as300 people are gathered and separated into groups in order to be surveyed, tested, and probed. The idea behind it is to see how the majority of people approach issues as meaningless as fruit, to a game of chess. One might be isolated in the country for a week up to a month, and in the end, the data gathered will help those in power control and regulate society. You could then compare such a letter to the draft, only the war you wage is entirely in your head. For our protagonist, he is fighting the urge not to go along with the government's game by attending.

Tensions rise once he decides to go and gets the idea that the gathering might be exclusively for his own demise. That fear is intensified by the fact that the man he has recently attacked is also in attendance. As his paranoia sets in, it seems intensified by the fact that everyone else who was summoned is quite jovial. For years, people have attended committees and seen them as a sort of free vacation. The director of the committee (Robert Lloyd) and his cronies have arranged for them to feel that way. While being technically held there against their will, attendees are given recreational privileges and live entertainment. There is an awesome scene where Arthur Brown and his band perform a psychedelic hit in a room full of hipsters. It looked like a ton a fun, except for Brown's terrifying costume with a pyrotechnic helmet (see the cover photo). By the end of the trip, the young man finds that his worries ring true and ends up having some one-on-one time with the director that leads to soul-searching and a lot of philosophical conversation.

The film has no climax, nor is it resolved well, but then again it isn’t meant to have either of those things. Its sole purpose is to get you thinking about society and allow you to compare what you see on the screen to your own life. Obviously things have changed drastically since the '60s, and the UK is much different than the U.S., but I still found some of the dialogue relevant, if not unsettling. However, none of the messages were really compelling, and I think that the stunning cinematography might distract an audience from the dialogue. Aside from philosophy, there is a bit of dry British humor that glazes the movie and manages to charm more than annoy. I also enjoyed all the "name-dropping;" it references other films and filmmaker's, like Jean Cocteau, and shares similarities with the mentioned works. Honestly, this movie is recommended for its psychedelic and dream-like photography more than anything else. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be blown away by it, but as I mentioned before, it has a charm and a strange seduction that keeps you more than interested till the end.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jan 7, 2011 2:26pm
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