Dennis Skinner, Nature of the Beast

Inspiring Documentary on the Labour Legend

Genre: Political Documentary

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Director: Daniel Draper

Cast: Dennis Skinner

 

Synopsis

A portrait of the committed socialist, trade unionist and Labour politician Dennis Skinner. ‘Nature of The Beast’ traces his rise as a political icon and examines his hinterland.

Review

Within the first few seconds of Nature of the Beast we already get a an understanding of who Dennis Skinner is, or at least one side of him. The Beast of Bolsover simply stands up and points at the audience, instantly commanding our attention, what follows is a short, fast paced montage of Skinner speeches, news footage and television reports, here the man is presented not as a politician but a rockstar or an extreme force of nature.

This political persona which the public would be most familiar with, gets a fair amount of attention through-out the documentary. We see lots archive footage of Dennis facing challenges head on such as the Iraq war, Margret Thatcher and David Cameron. One highlight of Skinner getting his claws out is footage of a verbal lashing he gave to Cameron about holidaying with bankers.

As well as achivial footage, the film also uses interviews, with the man himself but also his brothers and members of his figurative fan-club. All these people clearing have an immense admiration for Skinner. His brothers in particular, truly understand how much of an outlier he is, unlike them Skinner went on the further education before joining mines.

From these interviews, we gain a sense of the mans’ early life, how he began to understand working class culture and what it meant to be apart of it and his almost accidental entry in politics.

Inter-cut with the story of Skinners political rise, are anecdotes about his personal life. We learn some his passions including Woody Allen films, we see his poetical side as he beautifully describes one of his favourite trees in a London park, his love of singing is also mentioned a few times through-out the film, once with an impromptu performance mid-interview. Skinner comes across as witty, unabashed, humble and a great storyteller.

There is also some heartwarming clips with him and one of his brothers walking through the Forrest together, spinning yarns and telling jokes, it becomes easy to feel like you are a member of the family or a close friend.

Many themes and ideas presented in the film are supported by the musical soundtrack choices, most commonly we hear political folk tunes, including another interview performance from a Skinner supported, singing lyrics of anti-establishment and working class unity with an old guitar and nasal vocal.

A highlight that must be brought up are Skinners five second quips, when the microphone is on at black rod, the mans humour is sharp, topical and unforgiving.

Skinner’s’ final private speech to audience at the end of the film, fully encompasses the documentary and in many ways the man himself, he talks of the work thats been done but also the work that is to be done, he is inspiring, insightful, and a truly principled socialist.

Verdict

Nature of the Beast, does what a documentary should, paints a picture of a fascinating subject from all angles, entertaining, with a heart and the power to inspire its audience

Review by Michael McCourt
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