Directed by Lindsay Anderson, a prime mover of British New Wave Cinema, from a scalding script by ex-public schoolboy David Sherwin, If…. proves to be something of a universal fantasy. An anarchic trio of disgruntled public schoolboys (McDowell, Wood and Warwick) – plus one girlfriend (Noonan) and a younger pupil (Webster) – rebel against their brutal establishment peers, before literally blasting their way through staff and sixth formers.
Here, the school (actually Cheltenham College), with its chapel and firing range, serves as a metaphor for an archaic, conservative Britain. Fittingly (although the director always denied this was deliberate) the film does appear to echo political uprisings taking place the year it was made, in Paris, Prague, and the US.
Sporting less of a plot than a series of crazily inventive, titled vignettes (comparable to those from Jean Vigo’s 1933 film Zero De Conduite, which partly inspired the filmmakers), If…. blends English surrealism with a near-documentary style realism to astonishing effect. (Film 4 review)