Film Review – One Night in Turin

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One Night in Turin is a fantastically visceral documentary recalling the??violence and bile that surrounded England’s progress through the Italia ’90 World Cup.

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Director James Erskine portrays 90s Britain creaking under the last years of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher‘s Conservative regime. There is chronic under-funding of schools and hospitals, the threatened introduction of??the ‘poll tax’ that led to destructive rioting in London’s Trafalgar Square, not to mention the hooliganism amongst English fans that has led to a ban of English clubs playing abroad. Add to that??a??hostile tabloid press baying for blood, and the threat of a paramiltary Italian police force. This??is the backdrop as England manager Bobby Robson tries to salvage his, and his country’s reputation, to make??a play for the ultimate??trophy in international football.
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Less an in-depth documentary, the film eschews ‘talking heads’ style interviews for archive news footage of the time, lending a feeling of emotional immediacy. Erskine steers away from getting bogged down in statistics, instead offering fast-cutting, adrenaline-inducing highlights of critical play and goals to keep us updated on the significance of match results. TV news footage of rioting by fans is given a similar treatment,??and close-up inserts blend??well with genuine footage.
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Amongst the drama there is also great humour, and the footage naturally looks dated by the fashion of the time. One shot of a supporter on the street provoked mild amusement, but the small audience I was with were in tears of laughter as the camera zoomed out to reveal his best mate decked out in a hat and shirt which could only be worn on the football terraces. It was stunning to see footballing icons such as Peter Shilton,??Gary Lineker, John Barnes and Paul Gascoigne at the peak of their game. The latter had a reputation of a fiery temper, but we’re reminded of our warmth to his fragility and humour, as he acts up during training and TV interviews.
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As if recalling??Gordon and Parreno’s??Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,??a shot follows winger Chris Waddle as he runs to take, and miss his penalty kick that conceded the match to the West Germans, who are sportsmanlike to a fault in forgoing victory celebrations to console the vanquished footballer. The most??familiar scene to English fans is brought extra poignancy through the use of a lipreader, revealing Robson’s??paternal words??of??comfort to Gascoigne, in tears, as England lost their grasp on a place in the final.
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The soundtrack inevitably recalls heady anthems of the day from Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, Joy Division, The Farm, New Order and of course, Nessun Dorma, the theme for the BBC’s coverage of the tournament that??has come??to represent the passions and hopes of English fans, ultimately crushed in a cruel penalty shoot-out.
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Erskine has??produced a work that??is so much more than the stock football DVDs that adorn the??living rooms??of Britain. Alternately shocking and amazing, it’s an invitation to feel the pain all over again, but also a??solidarity in defeat, and that’s the binding nature of the film.??Ten years ago? It feels like yesterday.
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One Night in Turin is on limited general release now, and is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 31 May.
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