Dir. Owen Gower. UK. 2014.

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The documentary 'Pride' the film about the gay support for the miners has won acclaim at the same time this film has been released. 'The Enemy Within' was the term Mrs Margaret Hilda Thatcher gave to the dissenters of Socialist creed within the mining industry that were against her overall plan to bash the miners as a means of quelling Socialism (as a political force in Britain), forever. Political students UK wide learn of the politicisation of the police during this period and the evidence of this in the footage - taken 100% from the miners' perspective is rife.

This is though how this piece should be seen: as a polemic. The whole story of mines, what they were and how they predicated the lives of generations of men is not here. This is more a story of a particular political battle - within the confines of another wider and larger impetus for change. When Thatcher came into power in the late 1970s, Britain had been at the mercies of industrial action: strikes and three day weeks were the norm, the personal (she did take this very personally) and professional verve with which this was dealt with is evident in the footage. The determination with which these guys were treated smacks of enforced directive, the violence, at Orgreave in particular is overwhelming and one sided.

This documentary rather makes stars of some of the more fervent and determined activists: their story is introduced by footage of nostalgic bent, not indifferent to the public information broadcast that opens 'The Full Monty' - National Coal Board declares 'People will Always Need Coal' and the time when a mortgage was a guarantee with a higher rate set on security of vocation seems archaic. There is only one scene at the beginning of the film that has a personal experience retold of the feelings of going down a shaft and this perspective is definitely the stuff of another film. In reality, the generation before these men and before them, were subject of many lung infections and would spend their retirements sitting in front of fires spitting huge boluses of chunky coal dust phlegm into a grate. The Health and Safety record of mines is the stuff of Catherine Cookson novellas. But to include this would distract from the story that is to be told here: that of a battle of survival and resourcefulness felt by a movement made up of frightened communities with nothing else to do and no-where else to go.  In 1984 160,000 miners went on strike, the equivalent of a small town. By 1985 a good proportion of these men had had 365 days striking.

When looking at the characteristics of this particular strike - the fact that these men did not have a snowball's chance in hell sticks out like pork pie at a bar mitzvah. The tactics deployed to cut off every resource, aside from moral and spiritual, was immense: public sector workers from different vocational arenas were given pay rises to incentivise against striking. The police were trained in rioting, access to benefits were cut off, but the most nasty and ludicrous is the prevention of miners going to visit fellow working miners in Nottingham. Travelling vans were held up on route and told to turn around. Mrs Thatcher would voice civil libertarianism in her support of Falkland Islanders pre determining their national status: here the rule of law/rule of mob argument was a shade abused: the civil liberty of assembly and of association was squashed deliberately.

There are occasions when the film is moving - when the food parcels arrive from Russia, when the women are on the picket lines with their men, most of all when a Christmas anticipated with worry and stress turns out to be the best ever in the lives and memories of those participating. This film though suffers from having some of the colour in its cheeks the strike had: the music and solidarity should be a stronger force in the film and the opinion of a sympathetic policeman (there were plenty) wouldn't have gone amiss. This film is good, but not great  - it needs more to it. The first time ever film from the perspective of miners has been done already to great and angry effect in the fictional but resonant Brassed Off, and to a degree with Billy Elliot. To get a full understanding of the emotions and frustrations of the strike see all three together and then watch Strike: The Comic Strip Presents skit on the miners' strike which is the best work this team did. A pro miner Trotskyist Alexi Sayle stars as Arthur Scargill biographer getting the story of The Miners' Strike retold a la Hollywood. Funny as hell.

Still the Enemy Within is out on DVD on Amazon now

Gail Spencer

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