BRITAIN IN A DAY: Monday 11th June, BBC2, 9pm
The premise was simple: Ask people living in Britain to capture their day on video, and upload it to Youtube. The end result was Britain in a Day and it may be the best thing shown on television this year.
Over 12,000 people submitted their videos, and whilst we don’t see all of them, for obvious reasons, what we do see is a mosaic of lives, all different to each other, all different to our own, yet somehow, all familiar. From a Welsh farmer who lovingly tends to his cows, to a couple camping in the Occupy protests, these snapshot’s of people days are arranged in an order that is utterly transfixing.
It’s the structure of the film, not just the content which makes it so honest. Aside from the rough chronology (it starts in the morning, and ends at night), there is no imposed narrative, or theme, or message, it simply presents this sum of experiences as they are. If, one day, science gives us the ability to revisit our memories, I imagine the results would be similar to watching this.
Perhaps due to the nature of the clips, hand-held, self shot, with no film crew or hanging boom mic, the events recorded are often intimate, and there is frequently a sense of vulnerability. A bride is married in a hospice, so her dying father can attend. A âcruiserâ? narrates his walk to and from a sexual encounter in the woods. A teenager films his solitary cycle rides up and down a canal. Later he expresses his loneliness and a wish for a boyfriend to share his life with. Rightly or wrongly, you never feel like there is any playing up to the camera, in fact, the thought never crossed my mind.
Whilst Britain in a Day has it’s fair share of melancholia, it’s also full of tenderness and warmth. A man proposes to his wife on a picnic, whilst their children film it. She’s moved to tears, and as her children mistake her expression of joy for sadness, they then try to comfort her. In another section, a man sets up a platform in a tree before scattering peanuts on the ground in the hope of seeing some badgers. When they appear, he is overjoyed.
There are many clips here that would never usually make it onto our screens as they would be seen as mundane. The people filming them clearly relish in their chosen activity, and this is transferred to the audience. Britain in a Day casts a light on things that we so often miss, and it’s put in such a way that we can’t help but appreciate them, if only for a moment.
In the middle of the film, a Muslim man asks a passer by the meaning of life. They fail to reach a consensus. Whilst this sweeping project arguably didn’t pose the question, and it defiantly doesn’t answer it, it does show where we might be able to find our own.