List Film

Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, The - DVD review (3 stars)

(18) 97min (Tartan DVD rental/retail)



Thomas Clay’s visceral, disturbing but interesting 2005 film did not get a theatrical release in Scotland so now is your chance, if you have the stomach for it, to catch it on DVD. Set in an English seaside town at the beginning of the war in Iraq, it details the spiraling exploits of Robert Carmichael (Daniel Spencer) a bright school kid who becomes involved with drugs and casual violence through his association with a bunch of local youths. The film’s controversial reputation is due to a gang rape scene that comes towards the end of the film, which takes place while footage of the invasion of Iraq is played out on the television.

There is no denying that The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael is an uneasy watch, but Clay, as writer and director, is attempting to encapsulate the dyspeptic and diseased spirit of a nation on the edge of a pointless war. Despite paying lip service to the ‘new brutalism’ in European cinema that gave birth to Gasper Noé’s Irréversible and Marina de Van’s Dans Ma Peau, Clay’s film also builds on the rich seam of British polemic dramas that stretch from Alan Clarke’s Scum to Tim Roth’s The War Zone, which certainly makes it worth a look. Minimal extras.


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