The Emperor’s New Clothes focuses candidly on the disparity between economic classes, as the rich continue to get richer, while the rest of the country suffers – with the recent banking crisis a prevalent theme in this damning political polemic. Now, by its very nature, documentary filmmaking should be unbiased, there’s an unspoken rule to be impartial, to present all of the facts to the audience and allow them to make their own mind up – but not in this case. This comes equipped with an agenda, but so what? The bankers, the tax dodgers, the politicians, these people don’t always play by the rules, and the fact no bankers have served any time for their part in the recent financial crisis would suggest that impartiality is not an area they’re particularly well-versed in. So this has absolutely every right to be one-sided – fair’s fair, eh?
Though a film that will speak to millions across the UK, there’s a personal edge to this piece, as Brand contextualises his own situation by relating to his hometown of Grays, Essex, and returning to conduct interviews with the locals. It’s imperative this be the case, as his upbringing is relatable to our own, and we need to be able find that connection with the comedian, because he himself is in the 1% of those he’s staunchly against and fervently pursuing. He’s rich, we’re not – but he’s not the enemy, and his success should not work against him. It may undermine his stance somewhat, but it puts him a lose-lose situation, as if he doesn’t help then he’s greedy, if he does, he’s a hypocrite, so attempting to understand who he is and where’s he’s come from is essential in this instance. He also does a fine job in implementing humour into proceedings with a minimum contrivance, which is important, because without the occasional moment of light-relief, all that’s left is one of the most anger inducing feature films you’ll ever be witness to. In a good way.
There are times when the line between what’s accessible and what’s patronising become a little blurred, with Brand’s to-camera segments making this feel like an educational video of sorts, but for many, simplifying the situation is by no means a bad thing, allowing this to reach a wider demographic. There’s a clever technique whereby Brand explains the situation to a collective of young schoolchildren, allowing him to spell it out clearly and concisely, while indadvertedly making it nice and easy for some of us adults to understand too. The strong collation of archival footage to illustrate points is helpful in that regard too, and fair play to the research team, they even managed to find a rare clip of West Ham fans celebrating a goal.
Unfortunately, given the bias to this feature it’s been limited to a theatrical and VOD release, whereas you can’t help but wish this was on the telly for all to see in the build up to the forthcoming election, as it can’t not have an impact. The Emperor’s New Clothes has a sense of optimism to it also, but it makes you feel so angry, furious and baffled as to how we, the public, have been duped. We’re being fucked over, by the bankers, by the government and by the tax dodgers, and it’s not nice being fucked over. So let’s do something about it, shall we?