This isn’t a structured review or anything, I just really wanted to jot down some of my thoughts on this film before I watch it again and again and think more about it… initial reaction with art is always the most interesting!
For anyone who doesn’t know about it, Quadrophenia is a film centred around the mod/rocker culture in the 60/70s. It documents the rise of rivalry between these two gangs reaching its head in a riot in Brighton, shown through the experiences of Jimmy, a scrawny cockney git who is experiencing the sharp learning curve of life experience.
I am 19 now, as is the actor who plays Jimmy in the film (he’s in Eastenders at the moment). He is completely centred around his mod culture, ignoring his father’s attempts to connect with him and any effort to connect with the world outside the mods (cultural snobbery – both with older people and with ‘other’ people, shown when he meets up with an old friend who turned out to be a rocker, and he runs when his mod friends turn up so as not to be seen with him). Personally, sometimes I feel paralyzed by society’s desire to pigeonhole us like this. There are a few roots I can go down, dictated by the typical english student or the typical guy who likes the same music as me or down-to-earth Welshness. They all seem to contradict in some way, and leaves me extremely confused, as I have friends in each one of those three categories and wouldn’t want to be shunned by any of them – so is it best to remain non-offensive and passive? I guess there’s no answer to my ramblings, because we’re not in an ideal world, but the end scene of Quadrophenia is really liberating… if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read the next paragraph-
The idea of Jimmy, away from social politics at the sea’s edge, is a situation almost everyone can identify with. All of a sudden, everything that we obsess over within the trappings of society seems irrelevant whilst the huge silver block of the ocean dwarves him. Then, he rides his scooter over the edge of the white cliff (south coast, of course), jumping off at the last minute before it falls onto the rocks on the beach and cracks into pieces, symbolically destroying his mod image. Sod the conformity to something that he now realises to be completely shallow – he soon realises he was looking for depth and meaning in the wrong places. And he regrets how in the midst of his mod lifestyle he neglected essential relationships, such as to his parents and his rocker mate. And yet it isn’t moralising, because it’s easy to see the appeal to his mod ways and the strong bonds between him and his friends, and the excitement of the riots, teenage sex, and fighting against the monotony of the 9-to-5 workday. He gets in a right state because he doesn’t know the answer.
Some of my friends, who love this film, said they didn’t consider it art in the same way of other films. But Quadrophenia is consciously un-pretentious as a technique, thus making it constructed art in itself (although not un-pretentious in the way some films are that actually makes them pretentious!). It is a classic social commentary and coming-of-age story for the modern world, with clear tension between glamour and truth, and the appeal of both. Although I’m too tired now to try and draw out any strong conclusions, it’s given me a lot to think about, and is a reassuring film. I would say that all students should watch it: not only does it remind us not to get to obsessed in the minutiae of social politics and offers reassurance, it also shows how to enjoy these years, the innocence-destroying buffer between adolescence and adulthood.
Watch it, it’s hard not to love it!
Now I just have to settle the idealistic conundrum of whether to write in English or Welsh…