Monday, April 30, 2012

Power at its Most Corrupting

A couple of weeks ago the Sundance Channel decided to air the three Red Riding films back-to-back. These were a television adaptation of David Pearce’s Red Riding Quartet, a grisly study of corruption at its worst. Taking the factual circumstances surrounding the Yorkshire Ripper case as a point of departure, the series plays out a convoluted tale of corruption, whose heart resides in the police force, the West Yorkshire Constabulary, whose motto is, “Where we do what we want.”

The underlying plot about the serial killing of children is so complex that, after having viewed all three films, I had to review the plot summaries on Wikipedia to hold the whole thing in my head. Between the complexity of the plot and the thickness of the Yorkshire accents, these were not easy films to follow. Regardless of details, however, they offer up an unrelenting profile of the exercise of power at its most corrupt. Anyone who thinks that West Yorkshire is some kind of bucolic retreat from the crime-ridden streets of London is in for a rude shock.

I suppose that is ultimately what makes the film work. Regardless of how clear the details are, the basic message seems to be that all men are driven by selfishness, exercised first to acquire power and then to draw upon the benefits that come from exerting that power over others. Neither kindness nor rationality prevail in this narrative; and, grim as the prospect may be, the result may be the emblematic plot line for the times in which we now live.

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