“Public House” Film Review

7:30pm 29th Nov 2015 – The Ivy House, Peckham

“Public House” is a film by Sarah Turner recording the successful community campaign to save a South London pub from developers. The campaign broke ground using the Localism Act to keep a much loved venue. The Ivy House is now London’s first co-operative boozer. Something to celebrate, you’d have thought.

Public House is slow paced and chronology is abandoned. Long sequences are in slowed down motion. The pub voices repeat, swamped in endless echo and multiple voices are overdubbed all talking at once. The same phrases over and over. Less a polyphonic choir but more a cathedral din. Transparent figures walk past. Many scenes promise an end only to return to a previous clip with even more sound effects. This film is a dream world, a nightmare world, a world of ghosts.

Real events intermingle with staged scenes. Regulars, old and new, perform what they never otherwise would, masked by more slow motion. A synthetic choral sound track drowning out the real voices. They lay out candles and walk circles around them in the back bar. On mass on the common, not drinking drinkers crowd round to reflect sun light with small circular hand held mirrors dazzling the camera lens. A priest with a camera beckoning to extraordinary ritual those who fail to recognise what displaces them. The film becomes the ritual, marking passage to end times.

All voices equally at once. We are made high on mushrooms, voyeurs, hearing everything, understanding nothing. The communal becomes a repetitive unbearable racket, submitting to the Blakian aspirations of the gentry class film maker. We are made stupid and dumb by the very forces that assault us.

The film contains no concrete reflection on gentrification. There is an argument about the pub location. Peckham or Nunhead? Nunhead or Peckham? Here, the class implications are just an often repeated bad pub joke. Just another ritual.

Public House is a gloomy film that should have been a celebration. Forsaking structural analysis, this film is the defeatist and pessimistic vision of a media priest class academic, since moved on from Peckham, dreaming of a limited arthouse release.

"Public House" Film Scene

The Ivy House – A Pub Not A Nightmare





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