Over the past few years, actor and comedian Russell Brand, has become increasingly involved in the world of politics. Amateur footage Of Brand at the Occupy Movement protests, soon turned into Brand speaking publicly about the financial injustices of modern day society. Now, with the help from award winning director Michael Winterbottom, comes The Emperor’s New Clothes – a documentary which aims to expose the corruption and lies that we’ve suffered from our government.
The truth is, the involvement of Winterbottom was a more attractive prospect to me than that of Brand, before heading into this. When being told by someone whose net worth is in the region of fifteen million dollars – and who recently split from Jemima Khan, heiress to one of the wealthiest families in the world – that “the rich are getting richer at the expense of the increasingly impoverished poor”, there’s an initial sense of hypocrisy, that is is hard to shake.
Fortunately, one of the film’s many successes, is that it addresses this hypocrisy head on, acknowledging that if Russell’s Revolution were to happen, that he would, and gladly, be affected by the changes. In fact, for the first time in his long career, I finally began to ‘get’ Russell Brand, falling under his charming spell, and finding him quite the intelligent speaker.
Many of the opposition would, and probably will, argue that the film is nothing more than a vanity project for the actor, who graces the film’s poster like some kind of financial Jesus. There are certainly times where this does feel true, where Brand can be seen kissing, or cradling young children, in what feels like a politician’s photo opportunity. I’d disagree though; The Emperor’s New Clothes, is bigger than Brand.
Its release is timely. With the inimant election of our government, there’s no political grey areas when it comes to this film, as Brand makes quite clear who he doesn’t want to see in power again. Central to the the film is a quote from George Osborne, taken from his Autumn Statement to the Tory conference last year, where he stated that “we’re all in this together”.
Brand and Winterbottom go to great lengths to disprove this statement, by picking apart the various factors that all contribute to such financial inequality. Bankers, politicians, newspapers, and global companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks, all come under fire at one point for their tax-avoiding, insider-trading ways.
What the film does really well, is paint an all too familiar portrait of modern day Britain. In scenes which see Russell visit his old hometown of Grays, Essex, we see pound shops, bookies, and cash converters, littering the streets. Brand admits that the town was never exactly anything special, but things there are worse than ever – something which I think will be relatable for most people who watch the film.
Cold, hard facts, are used to put everything we see into context, in lecture-like segments where Russell Brand talks directly to us – segments all jazzed up by various colours, that will make you think that the projector may have broken. Added context is provided by looking back through the ages, at times where the situation was a lot better for most people. These facts are often presented in an imaginative way too, whether that’s through Brand chasing down bankers through the financial district in London, or through a group of screaming school children being sorted into the different groups of wealth in the UK.
As mentioned before, children are a constant prescence in the film, with a palpable sense of foreboding surrounding their economic future. Things aren’t all doom and gloom though, and The Emperor’s New Clothes is at times laugh out loud funny. This is mainly due to the everyday people, from all walks of life, that we’re introduced to in the film, and the ‘banter’ they partake in with our lead character.
Obviously, the level of enjoyment that you’ll get from The Emperor’s New Clothes does rest on what your political beliefs are. Personally, mine fall in line with those of Russell Brand, and the people that he talks too throughout. Politics aside though, it’s a well constructed documentary that is essential viewing for everybody. Not only does it raise interesting questions about the world we live in, and what we’re willing to accept as normal, but it presents us with answers too – a manifesto of sorts, which could provide a soloution to the problem. In the film, Brand says “things can change” and “things do change”. After watching this, I hope things WILL change.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com