Thursday, 19 June 2014


There's not nearly as much originality in Matt Johnson's concept for The Dirties, nor in the message he's peddling us in it, as he seems to think, but while all its gaucheries can be excused by its self-reflexive quality, the potency of what Johnson presents cannot. It's a product of the effort that went into making the film, and the skill, no doubt gleaned from the many classics referenced herein. The Dirties' main reference, though, is to itself, a technique that's old hat even among the cinema that has inspired Johnson, and which serves little technical purpose beyond showing off the ways in which it can be achieved: films within the film, acknowledgement of the crew, fictional storylines becoming real, even a neat scene in which Johnson presents a sequence we've seen as footage from his own feature. The style is found footage, though its application is more advanced. What purpose it does serve is to emphasise the senselessness and the awfulness of what eventually occurs here, in heightening the sensation of reality. Though a number of moments query the narrative validity of having an unknown third party carting filming equipment around in any and all circumstances, The Dirties is resolutely devoid of the staged sensation that is so often utilised in film to dehumanise violence. As is commonly the case in cathartic North American cinema, however, the sensational conclusion is more than the sum of the parts that preceded it. Johnson is fine at establishing his notions about bullying - that it creates not only social outcasts liable to express their shame, pain and rage in distressing ways but also more bullies born out of the victims. He's negligent, however, in exploring the roots of such behaviour, and the reasons behind the reactions. But it may not fit snugly into his film's design, which is simple but effective, and that's just about true for everything else about this film.