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Scar, The (1997)

Courtesy of Amber Films

Main image of Scar, The (1997)
16mm, colour, 94 mins
Directed byAmber Production Team
Production CompanyAmber Films
Produced in conjunction withBBC, Northern Arts
Produced byAmber Production Team
Written byAmber Production Team

Cast: Charlie Hardwick (May Murton); Bill Speed (Roy Cotton); B.J.Hogg (Tony Murton); Katja Roberts (Becky Murton); Darren Bell (Dale Murton)

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Proposed pit closures provoke different responses among the inhabitants of a Durham town. For May, an activist during the 1984 Miners' Strike, an attraction to the manager of a nearby open-cast mine puts her loyalties to the test.

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With their earlier features, such as Seacoal (1985), In Fading Light (1989) and Eden Valley (1994), Amber combined observational documentary-style material with relatively slight narratives. The Scar (1997) is an important step in the development of a more assured approach to a stronger, more mainstream narrative structure. As such, the combination of traditional narrative elements with Amber's political concerns can appear mechanistic and contrived as compared with the later Like Father (2001).

The allocation of particular political standpoints to individual characters and some of the dialogue can seem obvious and laboured in places. Despite this, the characters remain believable and the narrative engaging. Furthermore, by presenting a range of views on the aftermath of the 1984 Miners' Strike, Amber characteristically avoids didacticism. For example, alongside May's (Charlie Hardwick) hostility to the open cast mine, the audience is shown Dale's (Darren Bell) enjoyment and sense of achievement in his first ever job, and Jenny's (Amber Styles) understanding that the young people may have a different perspective to that of their parents. Similarly, through Roy (Bill Speed) pointing out the old mine workings to both Dale and May, and explaining his father's death, the film avoids romanticising the old mining way of life.

If The Scar is nostalgic, then it is a genuine nostalgia for the loss of a close-knit working-class community, and not for some mythic golden age. An engaging and affecting film that allows its audience to think as well as feel, The Scar is an important landmark in the evolution of Amber's narrative style.

Martin Hunt

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Video Clips
1. Comrades on TV (4:53)
2. Dale's job (2:25)
3. Creative conversion (4:57)
Amber Collective (1969-)
Amber Films