Arthur Seaton is my Batman. By which I mean he is a brooding hero and he has my heart. A young man living in the city of Nottingham in the late 1950s his powers are his anger, his carelessness and his enthusiasm for bending the rules in the direction of what he believes is right. Arthur works hard in the local factory as a machinist, takes care of his mother as well as he can and is zen in a way none of his peers seem to be but superheroes often are: "I take tips from the fishes" he says "never bite unless the bait's good". If Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) was remade today this line would be spoken deadpan down the lens of the camera and Jason Statham would be framed just so, artificial light bouncing off his forehead.
Arthur stands outside power and meaningful influence. When you lack power, life becomes a thing that is happening to you, a thing that gets away from you. You are just one person. You need to be anchored by something. You need the thing that is life to be different, better, fairer but what can you do?
Arthur gets by on mischief and with a healthy libido. "I'm out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda." He sleeps with a colleague's wife, he plays games at work and delights in winding up his foreman, he shoots his neighbour in the backside with a pellet gun. These deeds are petty when looked at up-close but for Arthur in the grand scheme of things they represent steps in a freeing direction. They are carefree acts that incrementally set him apart from the constrained working class community he has grown up in. Lasting progress comes from people like Arthur. They understand that change isn't found exclusively in big gestures but that it is a long game, it is in every day you make an effort to do whatever is good, whatever is for the best. Arthur has courage, he stands up to a bully, he cares enough to call her a "No heart swivel-eyed git". No one is ever good enough for Arthur, or at least everyone including himself could be better.
Albert Finney's body is made up of the first shapes you learnt when you started school. His head is a perfect square, his torso is a triangle, he is wide backed, with heavy shoulders and a small waist, his limbs are polite rectangles. He lumberingly takes up space on a screen the way your first drawings of people took up space on a page, his physical presence is familiar, comforting, reassuring.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning's infamous line is "Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not". This is a sentiment we are all well versed in. I once said it to a PE teacher who chastised me for being 'boring and slow'. You said it to your parents as a temperamental teen. Or to a friend who called you names for liking the wrong things. Or you thought it to yourself when you went to the toilet at work this morning and made a deliberately ugly face in the mirror, "Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not". You say it in your quietest, most honest voice. The voice that is you better than any other part of you is you.
What is a small voice in you is Arthur Seaton's whole being.
Arthur Seaton is that small part of you.
The part of you that bites its thumb at even the petty injustices of the day.
That part of you that is different from the rest.
That part of you that is bolder somehow, capable of the best goods and the worst bads.
The part of you that is freer, ultimately not bound by earthly laws or common sense or what is expected.
The part of you that could be Batman.
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