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  • Charles Drazin

Lindsay Anderson flying the Red Flag in 1945

There was a lyrical, poetic aspect to Lindsay Anderson's work – perhaps most evident in his short films Thursday's Children, Every Day Except Christmas and The Singing Lesson – which makes me hesitate to describe his cinema as 'dark', but his outlook certainly became very bleak.

The Lindsay Anderson season at the BFI Southbank in London is about to end and a general election campaign has just begun. This conjunction of events puts me in mind of a letter that Lindsay sent from India to his old teacher at Cheltenham College only a few weeks after the General Election of 5 July 1945, which the Labour Party won by a landslide. At the time he was a young intelligence officer at the Wireless Experimental Centre in Delhi (an outpost of the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park), which intercepted Japanese codes.

He was, I think, a disappointed idealist. He belonged to the generation that, having fought for democracy and freedom during WW2, had hoped to build a better world. The paragraph below marks the hight point of his optimism. Nazi Germany had lost the war in Europe, totalitarian Japan was facing certain defeat, and a progressive government had been elected in Britain. Here was the chance to build a New Jerusalem:

The letter was dated 2 August 1945. And it just didn't get any better than that moment. 'The world ... has learned something!' Lindsay wrote jubilantly. 'On to a successful Terrestial Civilisation!!' But only a few days later an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Cold War soon followed, and the doubts about whether mankind could ever find a way of living in peace returned.

But here's hoping 4 July 2024 will be the beginning of a thrilling renewal!


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