Film - The Angry Silence


Studiocanal has released a newly restored version of the classic British Drama, The Angry Silence (1960) on DVD and Blu-Ray, so how did it strike Chris Smith...

Tom Curtis (Richard Attenborough) is a working class factory worker with his third child on the way. When relations between management and workers collapses, a strike is called - but Curtis is one of the few who want to keep working. Faced with accusations of being a "scab", the wrath of the strikers is turned on him.

Although trade unions are no longer anywhere near as strong as they were in the middle of the 20th century, industrial action is still a part of working life. When originally released, many working men's clubs refused to screen The Angry Silence because of what they saw as its anti-strike message. While they eventually relented after a visit by Richard Attenborough, the film doesn't exactly portray strikers in a positive light. When Curtis and a handful of others break the strike, windows are smashed and threats made. Curtis wants to do what's best for his family and that's at odds with the majority view. The demands of the strikers seem reasonable enough: better safety precautions, better toilets, and a "closed shop" - where all employees must belong to the union. But what happens to those who don't want their actions dictated by others, isn't reasonable.

Curtis is also caught in the crosshairs of Union leader, Bert Connolly (Bernard Lee) and agent provocateur, Travers (Alfred Burke) who encourage the strikers to give Curtis the "silent treatment" union their return from work. It's childish but effective and soon Curtis is a pariah as everyone looks out for themselves. The Angry Silence is a uncomfortable look at industrial relations in 1960s Britain and group dynamics when one starts apart from the crowd. While the film doesn't look at the "rights" of the reasons behind the strike but instead focusses on the cost of standing apart - and who pays it. However, some will see the actions of the strikers are essential to ensure industrial action is successful - and that their demands are met. It's a matter of ends justifying the means, no matter who gets caught in the middle. The Angry Silence isn't so much anti-trade union but it definitely taints the image of the striking worker - and casts an uncomfortable light on what happens behind the scenes.

Image - Studiocanal