Lindsay Anderson Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lindsay Anderson 1923–

Indian-born British director, film critic, and author.

Anderson is probably best known as a proponent of the British "Free Cinema" movement. Conceived at the National Film Theatre in 1956, this theory emphasized the artist's responsibility toward society and the individual. Anderson outlined the precepts of "Free Cinema" in his manifesto article, "Stand Up! Stand Up!" Britain's cinematic approach had formerly been literary; Anderson lashed out at critics and filmmakers and asked that they emphasize "the significance of the everyday" in their work. The tenets of "Free Cinema" are apparent in Anderson's documentary and feature work.

Anderson introduced subjectivity into contemporary British cinema with This Sporting Life. The film chronicles Frank Machin's fervent rebellion against a nouveau riche society. Like other Anderson characters, he attacks the petty standards that signify success.

If … is Anderson's most controversial film. The film is a condemnation of the British public school system, but Anderson did not intend it to be a 1960s view of student unrest. If … studies the relationship between authority and the search for individualism and is viewed as his most successful juxtaposition of fantasy and reality.

O Lucky Man! also fuses real and imaginary worlds, creating a dreamlike existence where disasters are reduced to media messages. This quality provides a less solid basis for his attack on the British public school system. Although the film is Anderson's broadest satire, it is considered to be his least successful.

Anderson's cinematic output is purposely limited due to his desire to portray his convictions through other art forms. Though the "Free Cinema" movement has faded, Anderson continues to create works for the theater which reflect the dreams of "everyman." According to Anderson, realism must be aesthetically pleasing as well as sociologically accurate. Anderson states that his aim is "not to interpret, nor to propagandize, but to create."