At least in 1968 there was a paranoid belief that someone was controlling things behind the scenes: actually in charge. Now such thoughts are perhaps more optimistic than anything else in a world in which random structures follow on from the instinctive, monetised, drive for technological development.
Perhaps it was no different in the sixties when grander developments were more visible – today we’re on a micro-level with personalised technology eroding still further the possibilities of consensus: we’re isolated by our very connectivity. But in 1968 the space race, vertical take-off, computerisation were all viewed almost universally as good things with the caveat that they would allow a monolithic establishment more room to exert control.
The Committee was written by an economist and social scientist, Max Steuer, then as now a lecturer at the LSE and a founding member of the Centre for Philosophy and Social Science. It was his only film but it is not surprisingly a reflection of his concerns about the way society is managed. It’s not clear whether the committee(s) in question make decisions or whether they are large-scale focus groups to help the powers that be command and control through informed opinion testing, but there’s a sinister management elite behind them alright… though they smile and may villains too.
|The thoughts of Joseph Shumpeter|
The story opens with a car driving through country lanes, the driver (Tom Kempinski) incessantly chewing wine gums as he blathers on to a seemingly hapless hitch-hiker – the Central Figure (Paul Jones) – about the inconsequentialities of his life. They stop in a glade so that the driver can check his engine and he carries on his prattle as he does so. The Central Figure is impassive, smoking a cigarette and wandering around the clearing – seemingly relaxed.
|Paul Jones and Tom Kempinski|
Clearly we’re dealing with metaphor… Operation completed he thanks the stunned car owner for the lift and walks on alone.
The scene shifts to an office where a group of business men are discussing the composition of a series of committees. They are led by the confident, calmly-assured Committee Director (Robert Langdon Lloyd) who talks his men through the routine in generalities based on contemporary business-speak: it’s impossible to work out objectives, agenda and outcome…
|Robert Lloyd convenes a committee...|
|The Central Figure at work... all mod cons|
Next we see people arriving at the hotel come conference venue where the committees are to be conducted. Many of us will have attended similar functions for training and the feel is familiar, people milling around, chit-chat, finding their rooms.
|Members of The Committee - the Central Figure is in the centre|
The CF encounters the Driver who appears not to recognise him: he asks him how his teeth have been (of course). Then the Driver sits next to a man at lunch who tells him he looks exactly like his wife – poor man… poor wife! Maybe an in-joke too far?
|Arthur Brown performs Nightmare!|
This is a dislocated vision a place just one notch kicked away from our reality in a narrative environment in which everything does not have to add up. Yes the man was beheaded but only in principle to tech him a lesson, shock his senses to wake him up to the life he is sacrificing to routine and inconsequence.
|CD and CF|
At the end, the guests depart as they had arrived and the Central Figure accompanies a young woman (Pauline Munro). As they drive down similar country lanes to the opening sequence, she asks if he is plays bridge…
|Do you play bridge?|
|Max Steuer and Peter Sykes|
|Mason, Gilmour, Waters and Wright: Pink Floyd in February 1968|
|Recordings of Indeterminate Origin...|
A no-brainer for fans of early Floyd: the original head candy… The Committee is available through Amazon.