If.... (1968)

In Lindsay Anderson’s satire, the rituals of Britain’s ruling class and the dreams of its rebels are seen in the environment that shapes them – the English public school.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • Crusaders Working

Introduction

“Has the unique quality of being about every public school there ever was; we all, if Old Boys, see it in our own school – tribute of a sort, perhaps, to the System.”
Basil Wright, The Long View, 1974

At a traditional English public school, Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) is a romantic and a rebel, intent on identifying with those from whom he is secluded – women, workers, the marginalised. With his friends Johnny and Wallace, he resists the school’s rituals and – this being the year of the Paris May ‘68 riots – plots violent revolution.

Shot by cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek, fresh from work with Milos Forman in his native Czechoslovakia, If.... alternates between monochrome and colour sequences seemingly at random, obscuring the line between fantasy and reality while underscoring the surreal archaism of the public-school setting. The school’s teaching staff – including headmaster Peter Jeffrey, Arthur Lowe and Graham Crowden – make up a parade of slyly satirised establishment figures.

Malcolm McDowell played Mick Travis twice more for Lindsay Anderson in two semi-sequels written by If.... writer David Sherwin: O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982).

Cast & Credits

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