The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – Tony Richardson (1962)


The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a 1962 British coming-of-age film. The screenplay adaptation was written by Alan Sillitoe from Sillitoe’s short story of the same name. The film was directed by Tony Richardson, one of the new young directors emerging from the English Stage Company at the Royal Court. It tells the story of a rebellious youth (played by Tom Courtenay), sentenced to a borstal (‘approved school‘) for burgling a bakery, who gains privileges in the institution through his prowess as a long-distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of important events before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his status as the prize athlete of the Governor (Michael Redgrave), eventually undertaking a rebellious act of personal autonomy and suffering an immediate loss of privileges. The film poster’s byline is ‘you can play it by rules… or you can play it by ear – WHAT COUNTS is that you play it right for you…’. The notion is echoed by other contemporary films, such as a rapid series of three contemporary Lone Ranger films. The film depicts Britain in the late 1950s to early 1960s as an elitist place, bleak for working- to middle-class people. Sillitoe was one of the angry young men producing media vaunting or depicting the plight of rebellious youths. The film has characters entrenched in their social context. Class consciousness abounds throughout: the ‘them’ and ‘us’ notions that Richardson stresses reflect the basis of British society at the time, so that Redgrave’s ‘proper gentleman’ of a Governor is in contrast to many of the young working class inmates. … Sillitoe’s screenplay can be interpreted as either tragic or bathetic by ultimately projecting the protagonist as a working class rebel rather than an otherwise rehabilitated but conformist talent. During the period when Sillitoe wrote the book and screenplay the sport of running was changing. … Running is also used as a metaphor to give Smith the ability to escape from the reality of his class level in society. The use of this sport gives Smith the ability to escape from his life as a member of the working class poor. Sillitoe has used running to give his character a chance to reflect upon his social status and also to escape from the reality that the poor in Britain are faced with. Long-distance running gives the character an ability to freely escape from society without the pressures of a team, which may be found in other athletic stories. …”
Wikipedia
W – British New Wave
NY Times – ‘The Long Distance Runner’:Movie by Alan Sillitoe Views Angry Youth (Oct. 9, 1962)
Guardian: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – running blog book club
amazon
vimeo: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
YouTube: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

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