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You're Human Like the Rest of Them (1967)

British Film Institute

Main image of You're Human Like the Rest of Them (1967)
DirectorB.S. Johnson
Production CompanyBFI Production Board
ScriptB.S. Johnson
PhotographyDavid Muir

Cast: William Hoyland; Anne Hardcastle; Barry Cole; Gordon Gridley; Gianni Zambardi; Carole McGullagh

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After treatment for a slipped disc in a London hospital, a teacher struggles to convey his thoughts on mortality to his class and fellow staff.

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Bryan Stanley Johnson was born in 1933 in Hammersmith, West London and lived mainly in London until he took his own life, aged 40, in November 1973. He was a gifted and prolific novelist, poet, playwright and film-maker who died at the height of his creative powers. Best known for his novels, he also made three short films and various works for television.

Described by author Anthony Burgess as "the only British writer with the guts to re-assess the novel form," the formal experimentation and anarchic playfulness that characterised Johnson's fiction is equally present in his film work. Just as playwright Samuel Beckett (an admirer of Johnson's writing) started to make short pieces for television later in his life, so Johnson worked increasingly with the moving image; from his TV documentary work to a more personal brand of cinema.

You're Human Like the Rest of Them (1967), Johnson's first film (made for the BFI Production Board for a budget of £1,250), is a very black comedy about a teacher struggling to convey his feelings on mortality to his bewildered class and colleagues. The camera shots are edited to the sound of the actor's voices, giving the piece an abrupt and unconventional rhythm. The film won the Grand Prix at the 1968 Tours and Melbourne Film Festivals.

As with Johnson's work across all media, there is a strong autobiographical element. He had himself worked as a supply teacher, an experience that also provided the source material for his novel Albert Angelo. Johnson was working on a screenplay adaptation of this at the time of his death.

You're Human... offers a tantalising glimpse of how Johnson might have approached this debut feature, leaving one to imagine just what a unique voice in British cinema he might have become.

Tim Brown

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Complete film (16:21)
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