Here you can find information, commentary, story and pictures concerning the film It Couldn't Happen Here
How it happened
"It all started in 1987 when we were going to do a tour," remembers Neil. "PMI, our video company, were going to make a film of the tour. But then we decided not to tour and so instead with 'Actually', we planned to do a simultaneous video release. We worked with the director Zbigniew Rybczynski (who did the second "Opportunities" video) and had scripts for each song but we had to do it by July and they couldn't get the equipment we needed back off an Italian TV channel... the whole thing fizzled out, basically."
Then PMI suggested they use Jack Bond; impressed by a South Bank Show film he'd made about writer Roald Dahl, the Pet Shop Boys agreed to meet him for dinner. Several dinners were had and they got on well. "The way we see the world seemed to be similar," explains Jack Bond. "In particular I think we saw threats to what we see as valuable as very similar... it kind of gelled."
The Pet Shop Boys then went away to America, having agreed the basic film idea of some sort of journey linking up presentations of their songs. Jack Bond set to work on the script (helped by collaborator James Dillon), first simply playing the songs over and over again and putting them into an order "that told a story". Then he gradually sketched out the scenes. The Pet Shop Boys didn't see the final script until a few days before shooting; by then it was obvious that this wasn't just going to be an hour long video, it had grown into a 90 minute film.
It was shot in three weeks - a fantastically short time for a film - during autumn 1987, mainly in Clacton and London. "They're fabulous to work with... marvellous actors," insists Jack Bond forcefully. "Tremendous..."
"We weren't attempting to be actors," says Neil. "The actors do all the acting."
"We just do what we normally do in videos," agrees Chris. "Walk around, me a few paces behind Neil..."
What is it about?
"The story," says Neil, "is basically us playing our songs as we drive to London in this car and meet phantom-like figures. I always think it should be called Escape From Suburbia because we're really escaping - escaping from figures of authority; a priest, a mother figure, a con man and so on."
"The journey," explains Jack Bond, "is obviously physically a journey across England, but which England? In a sense it's a dreamworld of England, almost a journey through the psyche of England, which is very varied and strange.
A particular thing I was thinking about was how in England you have this curious dichotomy. It's a country that is both adventurous and extraordinary and radical in its imagination in some ways - you only have to look at its success in music, literature and film - and yet on the other hand has this repressive, almost restrictive side. That's what I saw the Pet Shop Boys travelling through - the repressive side. It's like an orange pip. If you out an orange pip between your fingers, it shoots out. In our country there's this repressiveness and fascism and conservatism (i. e. fingers) and they squeeze and out come these slices of imagination that no-one can stop (i. e. things like the Pet Shop Boys). For me, the Pet Shop Boys represent a vulnerable creativity that got through, and that got through on a massively popular scale.
In the film they're almost always untouched and they almost never react - I think that's how they've succeeded. Non-reaction is the most powerful form of reaction. There is the opposite argument - that you get trodden on - and that's touched on at the end where it all blows up in a chaos and they just drive through it. If you succeed because of non-reaction you'd better watch out because all hell may break out around you; you may saunter through it but what about the rest?
In a sense it's not just non-reaction they have. If you look at James Bond, the fiction of him was that you couldn't touch him. No matter what the threat was, the cool was unblown. I think what Neil and Chris have is an immense cool.
At the end, when they have zeros on their back, is my tribute to their strength. They don't join in with the dancers because I don't think they're running round full of ego. It's me saying to them 'you guys have the bottle to live life reading "O", "O", but you win'."
As for the rest of the film...
"The strong Catholic presence of the priest is derived quite directly from Neil's strong Catholic upbringing though it's obviously exaggerated. The priest comes back as a murderer and we know it's the same man - I suppose I do regard that kind of upbringing as dangerous; I think I see all authoritarian moves as dreadful and dangerous whether it be in education or government. Me and my film colleagues earn our living from being able to visually interpret a dream. Whatever was there in school that could possibly encouraged such a way of life?
The lines the priest says - 'and Lucifer before the day doth go' - are from a twelfth century text I half knew and looked up. It's the language of repression.
The dummy? Well, I think we've entered a moment in history when no words of warning can be uttered without sounding either precocious or sanctimonious. We've entered an age of complete expediency and so any words to the contrary are derided. I think the dummy is talking sense, but no-one takes any notice, which is why I reduced him to the cipher of a mechanical dummy. It's like, I've got friends in Greenpeace and when they're reported in the press the press reduces them to sounding like complete loonies.
The Pet Shop Boys are both in agreement with the dummy and annoyed with him. I wanted to him to speak sense in a way which drives everybody nuts.
The pilot? He's a fascist who takes the slenderest piece of misinformation and does the wrong thing based on it. I chose Neil Dickson to play him because Neil Dickson played Biggles, and now he plays the anti-Biggles, which to me is the real Biggles anyway. He sets out to kill them because he's murdering creativity. He only fails because of their ability to non-react.
It's quite complicated..."
starring: Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe, Joss Ackland, Dominique Barnes, Neil Dickson, Carmen Du Sautoy, Gareth Hunt, Barbara Windsor
choreography: Arlene Phillips
script: Jack Bond and James Dillon
direction and production: Jack Bond