Micro study essay: Quadrophenia (1979)


Quadrophenia (Franc Roddam, 1979) is a film that was made in 1979 based on the 1973 rock opera album ‘Quadrophenia’ by The Who. The film consists of an array of then young actors and musicians like Phil Daniels as the leading man which the film is about. The film also stars Toyah Willcox, Mark Wingett, Leslie Ash, Ray Winstone, Timothy Spall, Phil Davis, Michael Elphick, Kate Williams, Sting, Gary Shail and John Altman. The film follows the character of ‘Jimmy’ played by Phil Daniels who is a Mod living in 1960s London. Jimmy is part of a Mod gang who work all day at their dead end jobs just so they can go out and have a good time, mod style. This would usually consist of taking loads of pills which was common at this time, but aside from this they would take great pride in the smart clothes and drive either Lambretta or Vespa scooters. Mods were also bitter rivals with ‘Rockers’ who were like the anti version of themselves wearing leather clothes with huge motorcycles. The main story though follows Jimmy and his lifestyle which eventually leads at the end of the film in Brighton where there is a huge riot between the Mods and Rockers. During the story music from the album ‘Quadrophenia’ which goes with the story as it unfolds.

For this essay I have decided to concentrate on the opening 10 minutes of the film and write about mise-en-scene and soundtrack. I believe that these are the most important aspects of the film because of its background.

The beginning shot of the film is setting sunset near a cliff, it’s an orange sunset with a distant person walking closer towards the camera. This is my first mise-en-scene. There is non-diegetic music very quietly in the background with other background sounds like waves crashing against the cliffs. The distant person gets closer and then you can make out a face, this is the first we see the character ‘Jimmy’ (Phil Daniels). As ‘Jimmy’ walks out of shot the camera pans to the sun and flashes into the next scene, as this little section happens you can hear another piece of non-diegetic music just beginning to play.

The second scene links very nicely from the first, as the first ended with the shot of a setting sun and a flash led to this scene using that sun. The sun goes into a headlamp of scooter as we taken into the streets of London. Non-diegetic music starts playing of the song that was starting in the first scene. As this scene starts we see the array of titles and credits from the various people who worked on the film. Along with the music, we can hear ‘real’ sounds faintly like the sound of bikes and cars and of course you can hear Jimmy speaking to various people he passes. The cinematography of the scene is simple, the camera is always on Jimmy as we watch him ride through the streets of London, being its night time you can’t see a huge difference between the then and present London. We then cut to another show and we see a gang of other bikers, ‘Rockers’ as we find out further in the film. Jimmy, in his own world doesn’t realise that there are gang of Rockers behind him, he then looks back and his facial expressions and mood changes at an instant, he knows that he could be in trouble. During this time period there were two main music gangs, Mods and Rockers and they hated each other. As the Rockers get close because there bikes were bigger, faster and more powerful they taunt Jimmy about his bike and try to intimidate him as they pass. Jimmy just swears at them as they do this. During this time the music is still playing over the top of the scene. You see Jimmy now riding down a lit, wet ally-way and park his bike next to similar type bikes outside what appears to be a club. By this time the non-diegetic music has stopped and it’s just normal sounds like talking. Jimmy calls a bloke over named ‘Ferdy’, as he does this he takes of his Parker jacket (all Mods wore these) and you see that underneath Jimmy is wearing a very smart pinstripe suit. Jim and Ferdy are talking, you soon realise from there language that Ferdy is a dealer who Jim buys pills from.

Jimmy then coolly walks into the club, you can hear a band playing in the background and goes to a pillar and leans on next to another guy. He then casually takes a bag of pills and swallows one in front of this bloke. The camera shots are a lot of panning, you see the camera following round the room and we see a band on one side and on the other people dancing to them. The camera keeps panning until it reaches back to Jimmy again from the other side. We see another person walk up to Jimmy as they dance next to each other, they exchange a bit of banter with each other as well. We work out that these two know each other fairly well.

The band then finish there song and the crowd cheers, they start another one and Jimmy and his mate proceed to dance with the rest of the people there. The camera then cuts to a built up area and we wee Jimmy cruising on his Moped and drives towards a house. As this is happening non-diegetic music from the band in the previous scene is still being played and being slowly faded out. We then cut to Jimmy walking up a narrow set of stairs; he then walks into his sister’s room where she is sitting in front of a blue UV lamp in the dark wearing just her underwear. He comes in to borrow some scissors whilst accidentally knocking over a bottle of nail varnish. Jimmy then walks into his room. Jimmy’s room looks very typical of a lad his age, the walls are full of images of women, newspaper clippings and various other things. Jimmy pulls out a newspaper page and cuts a headline out to pin it to his wall. As this is being set we can start to hear non-diegetic sound of music slowly fading in.

This next scene starts in a bath house. The lower class people didn’t have baths in there houses so they went to bath houses instead, the non-diegetic music has stopped and we see Jimmy rising up from the water of his bath and wipes the water off and his hair. We then start to hear another mad start singing out loud, Jimmy doesn’t particular like this because the song is an old Rock and Roll song by an artists called ‘Gene Vincent’. As Jimmy says, “Er…don’t sing all that old rubbish, eh?” We then cut to the man who Jimmy says this to which is Ray Winstone’s character ‘Kevin’. They have a bit of banter which each other in the form of swearing. Kevin continues to sing which then provokes Jimmy to start singing. They have a kind of sing off with each other; Jimmy starts to sing The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’ which is another Mod band and song. They get louder and louder until a person in charge tells them to knock it off. Kevin throws his back scrubber over to Jimmy’s bath and hits him, Jimmy then gets up to look over and threatens him but then soon realizes that they know each other.

The final scene of my 10 minutes begins in a café where Jimmy comes in getting what we think is his lunch, he walks to a table and sits down and tucks into his food. We then see Kevin walk in from the distance coming towards Jimmy to sit down next to him, Jimmy’s face looks of shock as he see’s that Kevin is in fully biker ‘Rocker’ outfit with the quaffed up hair. They start to talk and catch up on times, but Jimmy then see’s some of his Mod mates come in and Jimmy knowing what Kevin doesn’t about the Mod/Rocker rivalry tries to leave as soon as possible so not to bee seen with a Rocker.


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