The spirit of 1968? Revisiting Lindsay Anderson’s If….

Lindsay Anderson’s film If…. famously culminates in an armed rebellion led by a group of pupils in an elite English public school. The film has often been seen to embody the radical spirit of 1968, the year in which it was made. Fifty years on, it seems a timely moment to re-examine If…., and to question its revolutionary reputation. In this essay, I focus primarily on the film itself, looking at its representation of the school system, its innovative style, and its political messages. I also look briefly at two subsequent films that featured its main character Mick Travis, O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982). In the process, I argue that If…. is rather more ambivalent, and perhaps more confused and contradictory, than its reputation suggests.

You can download the whole essay (without illustrations) by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings to read the different sections:

  1. Introduction; the story of If….
  2. The personal and the political; representing school
  3. The politics of style
  4. A revolutionary hero – and a text of its time?
  5. The story continues: O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital
  6. Sources and references