"If..." is a 1968 film directed by Lindsay Anderson about freedom and individualism. It takes place at a typical -although exaggerated- english boarding school, where the prefect
s run the regime with shameless anal
ity, and convention is the way of life. The tradional, stuffy
teachers want their daily life to be exactly the same as it always has been, and the prefects ("whips" as they're called in the film) enforce this routine for them. However, a pupil named Mick Travis is sick of it. He's sick of the routine, he's sick of the conforming, and most of all he's sick of the oppression
As it is a very surreal film, there are many different ways to look at it. Someone recently suggested to me that the school represents England; the teachers represent the government, the whips represent the police or the military, and the other students represent the public. It's possible, but I feel that the main revolution in England during the 60's was a cultural one, not a violent form of resistance. Take, for example, the students in Paris, or the Vietnam riots in The US. I tend to think that "If..." is more about global freedom rather than British freedom.
I personally hold the view that "If..." is a display of the possibility of rebellion, a reminder of the fact that ultimately a person is free, in the same spirit of Antz. I feel that the school environment is a chosen stage for the rebellion to take place upon, perhaps to give the film a more entertaining side, or maybe to mitigate the political messages. Either way, I feel the rebellion in the school applies not just to political issues of the time or the bullies of education, but the fight for individualism as a whole. It's in our history, it's here now, and it will be in our future: dictators, at many different levels, will always rise, and others will always rise against them. That is, if we have the Mick Travises of the world. His character is shown to be more intelligent than the whips, and equal, if not superior, to the teachers. The other boys either cringe with fear and go with the flow, or suck up to the whips and teachers and receive all the benefits of being "on side" (like joining the informants in Prague). The Micks stand up for what they believe in. They don't send coke to their enemies and "their teddy bears to oxfam". They are who they are.
Special thanks to Catchpole for bringing to light the topic of black & white vs. color. There's no use trying to work out the symbolism behind the scenes that aren't in color, it's because the filmakers ran out of money.