It is a frequent, in fact, expected occurrence now for political parties in the United Kingdom to use the medium of film to pitch why the voters should vote for them. Whether the films are merely sensationalist propaganda, or simply factual, the political parties are using the format of film to transmit their messages, and thus I think it appropriate to review the films that they have made.
I have reviewed these films purely based on the craft of the filmmaking and the way their messages are put across, as opposed to reviewing the films based on whether I agree with the political ideology of the parties. The following reviews steer clear of bias by reviewing not what the video says, but how it is said.
N.B. Some political parties have made more than one video. I have reviewed the videos that I have seen on YouTube and BBC iPlayer, thus if I have missed one it is not to do with any political bias but rather, sheer visceral incompetence. It is also important to note, that my iPlayer seems to show me the broadcasts for the Welsh version of the videos because I go to a Welsh University. I also haven’t written reviews for The Green Party, Sinn Fein or the DUP (or any other party) due to weak streaming online. I will review these broadcasts at a later date. But for now….enjoy:
THE THREE MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES
The Conservative Party (Video #1)
There is always something strange about seeing David Cameron talk directly to camera, thus talking directly to you (or rather at you). He has a strangely annoying style of speaking. Perhaps it’s the patronising tone created by the fact that he talks…really…slowly…and puts particular emphasis onto random words, just so that your attention is maintained. Considering this, it’s a brave move that the first part of this election broadcast is David Cameron talking. And yes, due to his glacial pacing, the amount of time he speaks for is rather lengthy. There is of course nothing wrong with length. The Labour election broadcast is great and it is indeed the longest (spanning over five minutes). The issue is what is contained within the amount of time you use, and in this video it is David Cameron talking.
Alas, just to emphasise what he was saying, the screen fades to a blue union flag (I think they’re media-nodes understand semiotics), with five small snappy phrases that sum up David Cameron’s arguments concerning how he will change this country:
1) Reducing the deficit
2) Cutting income tax and freezing fuel duty
3) Creating more jobs by backing smaller businesses
4) Capping welfare and reducing immigration
5) Delivering the best schools and skills for young people
I think it’s vital to make the point that this a profoundly dull piece of filmmaking, not least because of Cameron’s sluggishly plummy tones but because there are no images which grab you. In this sense, it is the poorest piece of filmmaking so far.
Painfully dull. Not cinema, but rather recorded speech.
The Conservative Party (Video #2)
What is the overall point of using film as an advertisement? In fact, the better question is: what is the point in advertising? After an advertisement ends, you should be able to recall multiple key pieces of information that were stated. This video fails partially because it feels like an overload of information, and partially because stylistically it has the aesthetics of a lecture slideshow as opposed to a video campaign. Thus, the result is the fact that I cannot quote it at all.
Am I overcritical in believing that if you’re going to make more than one video, both videos should be stylistically different as opposed to the same? Again, very much aware, that there message may not sink in, the election broadcast uses text on screen to aid the visuals, like in the previous video. The text itself is long as opposed to short…thus, it is impossible to quote the text as well.
If however, you are curious about the text, it includes the following:
1) Taking back control of justice and home affairs
2) Keeping control of our borders and cracking down on benefit tourism
3) Getting a better deal for British taxpayers
4) Securing more trade but stopping ‘ever closer union’
5) Giving the British people an in-out referendum in 2017
(Yes, I did have to rewind the video and press pause so I could write these slogans down as it is impossible to remember them).
Even though the video is stylistically better than the previous one, the whole tone of the video feels preachy – it is never a good thing to feel as if you’re being sold something when you’re watching a advertisement. Of course, this is the point of an advertisement – but feeling as if you’re being manipulated isn’t a good thing for political propaganda.
David Cameron also speaks to the camera at the end.
Stylistically better, but ultimately forgettable. The film goes very hard on the patronising ‘atmosphere’.
The Labour Party
Perhaps in the medium of film, it’s not what you say, but how you say it; not who you are, but how you come across. In this video, Ed Miliband comes across like a shining vision of hope, a Utopian angel who will bring forth our Nation (or rather, “One Nation”) into a brighter, and better future for all of us. In this sense, this party election broadcast is an excellent piece of filmmaking, because it has the power to draw in not just the politically-minded but the people with not much knowledge when it comes to political-issues. It is important to remember that these videos act not just to sell political-ideas to the public, but to sell a persona, and in this sense, the Labour election broadcast is an excellent video.
The video perhaps mainly focuses on criticising the current state of affairs rather than offering solutions (I am reminded of David Cameron’s phrase “We can’t go on like ths”). When it does offer solutions, the solutions are only said briefly. In a sense, the video isn’t about a normal solution. It’s almost as if it’s suggesting that the solution to the United Kingdom isn’t political-ideas but the figure of Ed Miliband. In this sense, the video is a masterclass of spin.
Furthermore, the power of the image is incorporated to tell a story, a story that will connect wit us instantly: images of Ed Miliband with a glistening glowing light behind him (making him seem angelic), images of a man working in a factory (appealing to the workers which is what the Left is traditionally about), images of people watching Ed Miliband in awe of him as he speaks, clinging on to every single sound that comes forth from his mouth.
An excellent piece of filmmaking which understands film as a an art/media form which uses images to put forward emotional and intellectual concepts: sells Miliband’s politics as well as his persona.
The Liberal Democrat Party
This is an astounding piece of political filmmaking because it trashes the notion of politics being boring and makes it feel like a Hollywood disaster-movie. How can I prove this? Okay, well the most effective method I could demonstrate was if I were to ask you to simply close your eyes and only listen to the sounds of the entire video, not the visuals, just the sound. Exactly. The video is vibrant aurally as it is visually.
At first, the sound reflects the notion of being out of the European Union by playing noises which sound chaotic and destructive…but then as the film comes to a close and we’re shown the positives of being in the European Union, a hopeful, vibrant, positive score echoes. This of course all sounds fairly obvious and simple, but did any other video in this blog post use sound so simply and so effectively as the Liberal Democrats did? No.
It unfolds like an argument. An argument which accentuates its points by twisting and playing at your emotions, because stylistically, it’s perfect. Notice how throughout the video, slogans are used, but in the scene (“3 MILLION JOBS”; “STRONER ECONOMY”; “TRADE PARTNERS”), as in, they are actually props as opposed to text. In this sense, if one were to wish to get in to too much depth analysing the video, it puts forward the notions that these issues aren’t abstract constructs, but instead real issues, which are ingrained into all of our lives, hence they become a physical part of the scene - thus they are props that can be seen, touched and moved as well as discussed.
It also helps that Nick Clegg is a brilliant speaker – something about his eyes that draws you in, something about his physicality, his hand-gestures.
A brilliant piece of political spin. It rams its pro-EU point straight into your retina via using style to emphasise its substance, to great cinematic effect.
THE FRINGE PARTIES:
The British National Party (BNP)
Is it a satire? Is it a lampoon? Is it a disturbing vision of the present-day and/or the future? Or is it merely a man talking in front of the camera for a considerably lengthy amount of time with the same video playing on a loop as a backdrop? Or is it actually a film about a dog with an issue with his ever-protruding tongue? It is indeed all of these.
The British National Party is incorporating postmodernism in their films. Hooray. For the film starts off as what appears to be a satirical cartoon, but then suddenly, the cartoon stops. We are told that this is because they have broken various OFCOM rules. Thus the film initially starts off as a critique of censorship culture and how free-speech doesn’t exist due to ideological regulation. It is a shame. I rather liked the dog which Nick Griffin appeared to pat. It even stack its tongue out in a rather cheeky manner. Why there is a dog, it is anyone’s guess. My closest guess is that it is a reference to that dog ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist, Winston. If any case, this reminded me of another BNP election broadcast from long ago where Winston Churchill was repeatedly used as a riff about how “great” Britain, used to be. This previous advertisement for your vote was a strange piece of filmmaking: hazy, pixelated footage with Nick Griffin talking straight-to-camera, it was like the final video somebody makes before a group of virulent zombies blast down a wall and dissects you “I miss you Britain, but if you’re watching this video, it means that I am dead.”
Alas, the budget has grown, and presumably the crew has changed. The film’s quality goes on a downward curve. The cartoon being the high-point, and then we get to a man endlessly talking to the camera. This is an advertisement! Suck me in via images: use the power of the medium to persuade me, not a whining middle-aged man in front of a backdrop (no offense, whoever you are, I’m sure you’re a lovely, kind, charitable human being). Then “Act 3” of the advertisement begins: random snappy thoughts from members of the public (who represent YOU, the voter) stating their thoughts about the BNP and our country at present. The thoughts ranging from bringing back the death penalty, British jobs being for British workers, the islamification of Britain, an anonymous school in Leeds teaching English as a foreign language, and the BNP being the only political party that is defending the young generation today. There is a strange forced feel to these straight-to-camera vox-pops, a bizarre stylisation. This can only be described by observing one of the first vox-pops: the mise-en-scene is of four men, in army uniform facing a war memorial with their backs turned to us…the 2nd man turns around and talk to camera, then he turns back to facevthe war memorial…a pause, then he turns back round again and says another piece to camera!
The filmmaking suffers from “Lolita syndrome”, due to censorship: it has had to take various cut-backs so we cannot see what the original piece of filmmaking is like, and thus, it’s message and it’s ideas are not as visible. It is certainly better than previous attempts at filmmaking, but cannot be persuasive due to the strangeness of the interviews and the almost rejection of film being an art/media-form designed to manipulate via visuals, not necessarily words.
The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
Unlike my opinion concerning The Conservative Party’s broadcast, I think my opinion has changed here. Yes, film is a predominantly visual artform, but it is key to also remember that if a person can capture your attention with their vibrancy and with their style of speaking, then you should of course focus on that person. I am of course talking about Nigel Farage. He appears in the final moments of the broadcast, and I’d actually wish he was present throughout the whole thing. None of the other characters in this film are quite as engaging as him, they all sound rather bored and tired (and I don’t think this is an intentional metaphor about how they’re feeling about the current political climate).
The film does however, have some visually interesting images, but these are images that don’t necessarily force their points into your eye-sockets. The film has a strange melancholic feel which occasionally slips into banality. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily the film’s fault though, as I have just viewed this after viewing the Liberal Democrat’s broadcast: a sizzling piece of filmmaking which grabs your attention instantaneously. If anything, this, I think, shows who’s won so far in producing the best piece of political propaganda.
The film however ends on the defining statements about how UKIP has represented itself. Nigel Farage appealing to Left-wing ideas (to draw in the working class vote), the notion of a “People’s Army” and causing an “earthquake” amongst the establishment, the political class and the entire political landscape itself.
I thought what was excellent about UKIP’s media spin was on the concentration on Nigel Farage being the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, straight talking underdog of politics who promotes “common sense politics”. Why did this election broadcast not take advantage of its key figure: the leader himself?
And that’s my thoughts on how the Parties put themselves across…what I actually think of each Party’s intentions and ideological views…well, that’s another blog post entirely.