There are plenty of movies set in Scotland that claim to shed a little light on our history and on the Scots as a nation of people. Some are famous and some are little known outside of these shores.
I want to concentrate initially on one of my favourite movies – Local Hero. Released in 1983, it tells the story of an American Oilman (Peter Riegert) sent from Dallas with the object of buying up the little fishing village of Ferness and the beach around its headland. His Boss (Burt Lancaster) sends him because Riegert’s character is called McIntyre and therefore “sounds” Scottish.
Along with the company’s Scottish representative, played by a young Peter Capaldi, they arrive in the village early in the morning after having to sleep in their car due to the mist covered mountains. This set up is clearly a allusion back to the famous Brigadoon musical, in which a magical Scottish village arises out of the mist every 100 years. The movie retains many references to Brigadoon such as the American in a Scottish village, torn between the simple life and his sophisticated life back home; but whereas that film was a love story between Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, in Local Hero the love affair is between Mac and the landscape.
Mac arrives with a mission to buy up the land to build a refinery and believes the locals will not want to sell because of the history and beauty of the place. The locals do seem reluctant and Mac realises this might be harder than it looks, however the joke is, the locals cant wait to sell and are playing hardball to get a higher price.
I wont spoil the plot any more than I already have but the whole film resounds with wonderful characters, who populate the village. They are so well drawn and believable that they never fall into cliche.
What could be sentimental environmental mawkishness is safe in the director Bill Forsyth’s hands. The Scottish director’s previous films showed his talent at whimsy in the fantastic Comfort and Joy and the highly acclaimed Gregory’s Girl.
There is a You Tube link to the film here but you should try and get it on DVD for the best experience.