The deluded fantasies of Leavers must have been inspired by the big screen says Have I Got News For You writer NATHANIEL TAPLEY. Here, he brings you the most Brexity films of all time.
Back in the distant reaches of history – the late 1990s – entertainment was a very different thing. Before streaming services gave us access to pretty much any piece of television or any film any time we want it, there was only one way to be sure you could watch a thing you wanted to watch. Videos. Though to the modern eye they may seem like unwieldy cuboids of black plastic and magnetised tape on which someone had scrawled ‘Inspector Morse TO KEEP’, to a student of the time they were a thing of wonder, the most important thing we owned. Before tweets could be tweeted, or funny animal videos could be watched, or phones could play games where coloured gems collide with each other for points, there were only two forms of entertainment: collecting up change to see if it was enough for a cider, and watching videos. You grew to know and love those videos, because they were the only ones you owned and you had nothing to do but watch them almost every night. It was a form of Stockholm syndrome that came with a warning against piracy every time you indulged it. You know why a generation of people can quote every line from Withnail & I? Because the alternative was watching Call My Bluff. We also watched a lot of Call My Bluff. In our house, we had The Italian Job, and we’d happily sit around shouting ‘For why, Keats, for why?’ and ‘Big. B.I.G.’ at the screen until it was four in the morning and we were at risk of not being able to get 13 hours sleep before we had to be in the student bar. I watched it countless times 20 years ago, but time moved on. DVDs arrived, and I put it away with childish things like deliberately arch T-shirts, buying music on vinyl and having aspirations for the future. Now, however, I’m approaching 40, and so am obviously unpacking all my childish things, putting them on again and looking at myself in a mirror thinking ‘Yeah, that still fits,’ before having to get help to get them off again. And The Italian Job was on the television the other day. So, I sat down to watch it, wondering if it would hold up after all these years. The good news is, it does. The high camp, and big characters, and car chases all stand the test of time. The bad news is that we seem to be living in it. With its red, white and blue minis, Charlie Croker’s promise of ‘a raid on the common market’ and setting off for the Continent on a ferry called Free Enterprise as Rule Britannia plays, as I watched it became clear that this is the world the Quitlings think we live in. One where plucky Englishmen (and one woman, who’s disposed of pretty early in proceedings) outwit our lethargic, corrupt European neighbours, and fleece them for all they’ve got, using only smarts and some sophisticated computer-hacking technology. It also, obviously, stars Brexit’s answer to Terence Stamp: Michael Caine. The whole thing smacks of Hannan and Farage and David Davis, convinced of the innate superiority of the average Englishman over the swarthy Continental. Which is fine, until it occurs to you that they must not have noticed how the film ends. Anyone who has adopted this as their national sense of self-identity, must have missed that the film is making fun of us. From only blowing the bloody doors off to dangling off a cliff at the end, the English mob in the film are victims of their own self-confidence. The Italian Job shows the English as small-minded, incompetent, and only really enthusiastic about the national anthem and big bottoms. Which led me to wonder: what other films might have contributed to our national delusions of competence? So, here’s a hastily-considered, ill-advised and horribly-biased list of the Top 7 Most Brexity films…
Is it any surprise a country that has supped deep from a well of cultural delusion about its own achievements, should be struggling to understand why the rest of the world might not see things the same way? How dare the Europeans have such a firm hold on the distinction between reality and fiction? Yes, videos were great. They could take you into fantastic, terrifying, exciting worlds. Unfortunately now, they’re more likely to take you into this one.
Nathaniel Tapley is an award-winning comedy writer-performer, who has worked on Have I Got News For You, The Revolution Will Be Televised, The News Quiz, Tonightly, Gigglebiz and Dick & Dom amongst other things