Wonderous Oblivion (England, 2003)


Figure 1.--The film "Wonderous Obsession is built around cricket. There is, however, surprisingly football/soccer depicted in the movie. David although obsessed with cricket is 'wonderously' inept. I think the boys here are expressing their amazement with David's inepitude in fielding. He is soon relagated to the scoring table. Click on the image for another cricket scene.

A HBC reader reports seeing a terrific period film at the Jewish Film Festival in Mt. View, California. The film was "Wonderous Oblivion", a 2003 British film about a cricket obsessed 11-year old Polish Jewish (but English born) boy in the early 1950s. He loves the game, but is unfortunatly, a terrible player. He loves to play so much and his school coach refers to him as 'wonderously oblivious' about his lack of ability. He is soon relegated to position of "official scorer". His family is subjected to the offhand/subtle bigotry of the era in their working class neighborhood (but the boy is not at school). A Jamaican family moves in next store and this REALLY upsets the (not so tolerent) neighbors. The boy, David, discovers that the father is an expert cricket player. He gets lessons from the man and eventualy becomes a very good player. He also develops a friendship with the man's daughter. This is a wonderful film about bigotry (subtle, overt and unintentional), tolerance and family with just a bit of fantasy and comedy to compliment the dramatics of the story. The film is very well acted by all, especially Sam Smith as the boy (a wonderful subtle performance that is acted as much by expression as by dialog) and Delroy Lindo as the Jamacian man who teaches him to play cricket. The ending is a bit of a stretch, but very satisfying. It has been described as doing for cricket what "Billy Elliot" does for dancing and "Bend It Like Beckham" does for soccer. Fortunatly, unlike "Billy Elliot" it makes it's points without profanity. It's a film the whole family can enjoy.

Filmology

A HBC reader reports seeing a terrific period film at the Jewish Film Festival in Mt. View, California. The film was "Wonderous Oblivion", a 2003 British film. The film has been described as doing for cricket what 'Billy Elliot' does for dancing and 'Bend It Like Beckham' does for soccer. Fortunatly, unlike "Billy Elliot" it makes it's points without profanity. It's a film the whole family can enjoy. A reader writes, "The film is a very atmospheric movie of growing up in Britain in the 1950's. It was a very broody film and one I found very melancholy to watch."


Figure 2.--Here David after school is returing home. The image gives a giod idea of the neighboirhood where David lived. Note thecorner shop, very characteristic. The people living here did not have cars and thus needed shops close by. (Note only one car is depicted.) There is a signs for ice lollies and pop called 'Tizer.' A lovely fizzy refreshing drink a British reader assures us is much nicer taste than cola. Bottle shape was distinctive as was Coke bottles (at the time). It is likely that relatively few bots from neigborhoods like this went to academically selective grammar schools.

Setting

It is May 1960 and the start of the cricket season. The film is set just as West Indians from the British Caribbean islands started to immigrate to Britgain in larged numbers. The cars date the film. Also there is no TV in the homes. The record player is C1957 and the records being played are 78 rmp. Also the cricket players are the stars of the late 1950s. It is post-1956 Nottinghill Race Riots because the area is shown to have a small West Indian Community. The image here has a realistic look because it is shot at an actual sight which still exists, of course with the store signs redone to reflect 1960 products and a period card added (figure 2). Note thecorner shop, very characteristic. The people living here did not have cars and thus needed shops close by. (Note only one car is depicted.) There is a signs for ice lollies and pop called 'Tizer.' A lovely fizzy refreshing drink a British reader assures us is much nicer taste than cola. Bottle shape was distinctive as was Coke bottles (at the time). It is likely that relatively few bots from neigborhoods like this went to academically selective grammar schools. I have noticed several holmes with TV areials. I would have thought by 1960 there would have been more houses with a TV. However many of the people who live there are elderly so that might account for there being no TV's. A neighbour had a new Ford Anglia car.

Cast

The film is very well acted by all, especially Sam Smith as the boy (a wonderful subtle performance that is acted as much by expression as by dialog) and Delroy Lindo as the Jamacian man who teaches him to play cricket.

David

David is about 11 and goes to a day Grammar school quite away from home. He gets there by travelling on the underground. David is a shy boy who does not make friends easily. His best friends are the Cricket personality cigarette cards he collects. He imagines that they talk to him. The touching scene is where he is movu\ing house and he tells them they are not coming with him. However he says they are going into good hands. He gives them to his West Indian friends. He becomes friendly with a girl his age but she is the West Indian daughter of his neighbour. Things go well but the friendship takes a nose dive at his 12th birthday party. All the guests are boys and David sees her coming round. He has misplaced loyalty. Does he invite her in to be the odd one out and also his school friends will know he is friends with girls. Not good for his image with them. He is only their friend because he has become good at cricket. To top all this she is West Indian as well. These are the fears racing through his head. His judgment is bad and he does not let her enter the party. A little thought by his parents could have prevented this incident. He also prefers to join his West Indian friends for a social function instead of attending an important cricket match.

Community Background

The film does not make clear just where in London David lives, but I think it is Nottinghill. This was a working class area of white Brits who had lived there for generations. There are changes coming and the fear of West Indians coming into their closlely knit community is rife. They have accepted Jewish European immagrants who fled Nazi terror. These the older community have more tolerance for. David's grandparents were killed in a concentration camp. The neighbors are concerned when the Jewish families move away to more prosperous areas in the city because they don't want a West Indian family moving in. This of course happens. The older teenagers are more racist and are begin bashing the West Indians.


Figure 3.--"Wonderful Oblivion" is about cricket obsessed 11-year old David. He is a Polish Jewish (but English born) boy. He loves cricket and is totally devoted to crickt, but is unfortunatly, a terrible player.

Plot

"Wonderful Oblivion" is about cricket obsessed 11-year old David. He is a Polish Jewish (but English born) boy. He loves cricket and is totally devoted to crickt, but is unfortunatly, a terrible player. Their is not a great deal of actual cricket shown in the film. At school the boys are seen on the Cricket pitch standing in positions. David is shown trying to catch the ball which comes his way. Despite his imaginative thoughts of being an ace cricket player it is quite clear that he his a duffer at the game. He runs and his attempt to catch the ball is all wrong. His progress downwards from participant to score keeper is soon revealed. He loves to play so much and his school coach refers to him as "wonderously oblivious' about his lack of ability. The title derives from the comment. The boy is totally unaware of the fact that he is terrible at cricket--even though he is obsessed by it. He is soon relegated to position of "official scorer". His teacher describes his playing as 'Wonderousl Oblivian' but the West Indian coach who befriends him calls it 'raw talent.' Both mean the same but the West Indian coach realises that there is a good player in waiting. School show no interest in bettering him but an outsider, the West Indian neighbour does and gives him lessons. The parrellel of the Good Samarition comes to mind. There is a contrast in how to dress for the game when David fully kitted out for cricket stands in his yard. He is watching his West Indian neighbour and his daughter play. She is dressed in ordinary leisure wear as she plays. The thought here was a player out of kit and an enthusiastic duffer dressed for the game. David is too shy to ask to play but his neighbour says ' Do you want to Play?' A humorous touch because the boy is standing there fully kitted out for the game. It is soon apparent that David can't play. A line from another Hollywood film comes to mind, ' This is the start of a beautiful friendship.' David asks his sports teacher if he can play and not keep score. He is allowed to play in a friendly match. His more skilful play is noted and he is included in the school team. The boys notice his passionate play and remark that 'itís only a friendly' meaning that your best playing is not needed. David bats on unaware that his team mates are wishing for him to be balled out so they can go home. David would not care anyway to him itís his chance to show his ability and he plays on.' Play on and Play the Game' a poet once wrote. There is a scene in which David attends a real cricket match with the family of the boy who is the school cricket team captain. Clever editing in the film shows a Patheí newsreel of an authentic match from the late 1950's.

David's family is subjected to the offhand/subtle bigotry of the era in their working class neighborhood. A Jamaican family moves in next store and this REALLY upsets the (not so tolerent) neighbors. The boy, David, discovers that the father is an expert cricket player. He gets lessons from the man and eventualy becomes a very good player. He also develops a friendship with the man's daughter. There are three scenes were racist teenagers (yobs) are shown harassing immagrant families. There are three scenes were they or their leader is shown harassing immigrant families. The first when the teenage yob holds the gate open for Mrs. Wiseman when the neighbours shun her because her son has made friends with the West Indian family. The teenage yobs are shown thumping a West Indian railway employee when he asks to see their ticket. The third occasion is when the yob leader is bouncing a ball off the Wiseman's house early in the morning. He makes a gesture to Mr. Wiseman that he is out to get him. The Wiseman's and the West Indian family recieve threatening letters which are pushed through their letter boxes. Towards the end of the film arsonists set fire to the West Indian home. Who was responsible for the letters and the arson is not stated but the impression the film leaves is that the teenage hobs are the culprits. This is a wonderful film about bigotry (subtle, overt and unintentional), tolerance and family with just a bit of fantasy and comedy to compliment the dramatics of the story. The ending is a bit of a stretch, but very satisfying.

There is a lovely depiction of a father and son relationships. Dad does not want his son to become friends with his neighbour but David does anyway. He lies to his neighbour when he tells him that he has his parentís permission. Dad does not like cricket but he his pleased his son has an interest. In truth dad is a duffer at sport too. He watches from afar the relationship that develops between coach and son. I am reminded of a similar relationship in the Spanish Gardener. Davidís fatherís eyes show his longing to be the one teaching his son the game. However dad does take an interest in cricket. There is the touching scene where his wife finds him in the bedroom positioning buttons to learn the theory of cricket. Towards the end of the film there is the joyous moment where son is showing his father how to hold the bat and swing it when batting. This contrasts with another film about Childhood and the playing of cricket in ĎDays of Glory.í In this film father and son are playing cricket together. They are having a wonderful afternoon together enjoying the game. The son's coach is his father. A reader writes, "What occurs in real life? I have had experience of being with friends whose father played cricket with their sons. They and the rest of the boys did not enjoy this as it spoilt the game with too much coaching. My father took me to cricket matches but once he realized I little love of the game this stopped. My father played cricket with my younger brother. He showed me equal interest in the hobbies I had. Sometimes he'd bring home a sporting trophy for my brother and a book about my hobby. I was and am a duffer at cricket so I was sympathetic to David's lack of skill and was with him as he sought out a neighbour who could held him. I did the same with neighbours who shared the same hobby as I did. Like David, life long friendships were the result of boyhood curiosity and a need to develop life long knowledge. For David it was cricket for me it was a love of trains."

In cricket the easy way to be out is for the ball to knock the bails off the stumps. This is more cinematic and it is the film's preferred way to show a player being balled out. The other ways may be too technical and hard to understand for an audience unaccustomed to the game. There are at least 6 showings of the bails being knocked off the wickets. Darn good play all the same. Later David, in his anger, is shown knocking the ball for a six. This is dramatic and shows the ball sailing through the air higher than the tallest oak tree. The thwack when ball meets bat is mesmerizing. All this school boy play is leading up to the big tournament but there is quite a surprise here.

Cricket

Cricket and the English weather are shown in the film. During one afternoon's play there is heavy rain. The team is sheltering under a tree but David, the score keeper is by the score board getting soaked. Everyone is sent indoors and are seen running through a water logged sports field. A reader writes, "This brought back memories of school boy sport lessons and watered logged field and getting soaked running for cover! Actually surprising little actual soccer is shiown in the film. Many modern sports evolved in England. Cricket has been described as the most English of all sports.


Figure 4.--David and his West Indian neighbour had very comfortable homes. Here David is in his bedroom still wearing school uniform . He is fascinated by all aspects of cricket and is workinhg on his cigarette collection of cricket players.

Clothing

The costuming looked very authentic. The boy wears a school uniform consisting of a blazer, grey sweater, tie, peaked cap, long flannel shorts and kneesocks and not forgetting his blue school cap. . He wears this uniform at school and in his leisure at home. He also wears a white cricket uniform with shorts and white socks, and for casual wear, tan kacki shorts with kneesocks and a sleeveless sweater over a short-sleeved shirt. I noted the cricket gear worn in the movie. This is interestingly shown. It is the whole white attire of the time. David's shorts are somewhat too long for him. At least another boy is wearing similar length shorts and both look like they have been weighed for the cricket pants they are wearing. David's mother knits him a cricket jersey in the traditional white wool. At school the boys are shown in full cricket togs with proper bats which are of the most expensive ones to buy. All the boys wear shorts for school and leasure wear. The girls wear gray skirts with sweaters for school. A reader writes, "Interesting that in the movie 'Wonderous Oblivion' that the prep school boys wore whites with shorts for practice and whites with longs for games. Interesting that there would be a set of whites for both." At the weekends he wears leisure clothes which consist of short sleeve shirt, sleeveless jersey, ankle socks sandals and khaki shorts.

England in the 1950 and 60s

This is a very good film to illustrate English boys clothes in the late 1950s and eraly 1960s. Readers may want to look at the HBC pages. Trend that began in the 1950s became increasingly apparent in the 1960s. Short pants were still commonly worn in the 1960s, but by increasingly younger boys--especially by the late 1960s. Boys began wearing clothes with a European influence. Short pants began increasingly short in the 1960s. The standard short pants were grey. Terelyn blended fabrics tended to replace flannel. These grey shorts were widely worn at schools. Some younger boys at secondary schools still weore shorts in the early 1960s, but this was rare except in private schools by the end of the decade. Outside of school, dress shorts were less commolybworn, but a varierty of play shorts in various colors and materials, including denim were popular for boys until their teen years during the summer. The year of 1968 is especially important as it was the year of the Paris school riots--which marked the increasing importance of youth culture throughout Europe. This trend was and fashions styles which accompanied it were also noticeble in England. By the end of the decade it was rare to see an older boy wearing short pants suits with knee socks, except at a few mostly private schools. Even the Scouts, but not the cubs, following the popular trend switched to long pants in 1969.














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Created: 2:03 AM 8/10/2004
Last updated: 1:13 PM 12/23/2004