The Execution of Gary Glitter
I thought long and hard before watching this film shown on Channel Four earlier this week. I had to ask myself, do I really want to watch this kind of thing? A film about the execution of a human being, it's never exactly going to light entertainment is it? I personally have always found the concept of capital punishment revolting, it is something that makes my skin crawl.
More importantly though to set the whole film around a real human being was something that I was very uncomfortable with. Paul Gadd is not a nice man, lets be clear on that. His offences against children are well documented and I don't think that there can be any doubt that he is very dangerous and has caused incalculable damage to many young lives. Yet to portray his death, while he is still alive is still something that I think crosses the boundaries of taste in a pretty grim way. Imagine watching that yourself and it was about you, especially when played by an actor made up to look like you as well this actor. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro censorship, but having the right to do something and it being right to do something are two very different thing. So yes, I thought that this film could, more tastefully, have been done by portraying a fictional character. Gadd is, I understand, suing the producers and while I have little sympathy for him I have to confess that in his shoes I would consider doing the same.
So certainly I didn't watch it on the night. Yet after much thought I decided to watch it on line this evening.
It was billed as a film that would debate the issues and I don't think it's possible to take a strong view on a subject without listening to both sides. If the other side's arguments make you uncomfortable I think it is somewhat of a kop out to simply turn away from them. And take it as read, I was made to feel uncomfortable. The scenes where Gadd's crimes were described in court were dealt with tastefully, nevertheless the viewer was left in little doubt of their gravity.
I should add at this point that I do not know where the line between fact and fiction was. Whether the crimes described really happened I do not know, I don't have enough knowledge of the case. That however is really only relevant in terms of the effect of Gadd in real life. The sad fact is that the sexual abuse and torture of children does happen, thankfully on vanishingly small occasions and the point of the film is whether death is a correct and just sentence for someone that commits such a crime. And perhaps that is another reason for portraying the story with a fictional character.
It is difficult to watch those scenes and then argue to save the life of the convicted man and the actor that played the defence counsel, while mostly a little hammy during the film, certainly managed to put across that difficulty. The film was over all very effective, in its first half of putting the case for capital punishment.
The second half however, as we see the build up to the execution day, was very different and in many ways reinforced my horror at the whole process. The cold, clinical side of it. The deliberate preparation to take the life of a human being, the complete lack of humanity in the process. It is the individuals involved in the process, rather than the convicted individual, that have always featured in my thoughts. How do their minds work?
Over all my thoughts on capital punishment have not changed, maybe its because the "anti" part of the film came second, but I think the film did a pretty decent job of portraying both sides to the argument. With the exception of the actor playing Gadd the acting could have been better, although maybe that's no bad thing. It made it so obviously fictional and perhaps that shielded the viewer a little from the horror of the situation.
I maintain though that it was in rather poor taste using a real person.