By Ben Thompson
Most students currently studying history will have heard of much the upcoming anniversary of the Peterloo massacre. Unfortunately, many people might be unaware of the history, or even dismiss it as irrelevant to modern life. In Mike Leigh’s historical drama, the nearly 200 year old tragedy is made to feel as relevant as ever.
The film follows the struggle of the northern working class in 1819 England. At this time, they were left without a vote, without representation in Parliament, and were subjected to squalor and extreme poverty.
Throughout the film, you get a sense of the weight of their struggle. They feel powerless, yet remain determined to make their voices heard. This is inspiring to behold, not least because of the cast’s phenomenal performances.
Nineteenth century England is brought to life with the spectacular cinematography, which captures the untouched beauty of the Lancashire countryside and the gritty harshness of the battlefield that is St. Peter’s Fields. It’s almost surreal, in a sense – to know that such outrageous injustice took place in our very own city. It truly is a call to be politically active, for our own sake, and to honour those who raised their voices at Peterloo.
The film is easily digestible for non-history buffs, but it is by no means easy watching. Some scenes will stick with you long after you leave the cinema, as, indeed, they should.