How’s this for a cop out answer? If… was filmed at my school, Cheltenham College. So in a very literal sense this film reminds me of my past, because I see buildings I spent years of my childhood walking to and from in it. I see characters walking up the stairs in the building where I studied French, through a door and out onto the balcony of the gym. Which jars me and forces me to remember, because it’s wrong. I also see people who were at the school at the time in the crowd scenes. So I see parents of friends. Another reminder.
But that’s not all.
You see, I didn’t really enjoy my time at the school and the film follows Mick (Malcolm McDowell) through the experiences that turn him against the British institution of boarding schools. The indignities, humiliations and abuse inflicted on children who are at a very vulnerable stage in their lives and, given the nature of boarding schools, away from their homes and families. I actually wasn’t, I was lucky enough to be a ‘day pupil’, which means I went home at the end of the school day like most kids, but the indignities and humiliation were present in abundance. Whilst neither I nor my colleagues at the time ended up rebelling in quite the same violent way the film depicts… let’s just say this film wasn’t as far-fetched for us as it perhaps would be for others.
It’s not the most pleasant of reminders but it is cathartic. It’s also notable as McDowell’s film debut.