One night in Turin is a DVD documentary based on the England Football team and its experiences at Italia 90. To most football fans this world cup marked the beginning and end of eras in English football. It was the start of 6 lonely years as England began a steady decline from semi-finalists to failing to appear at the next World Cup.
The DVD is based on the splendid Pete Davies book ‘All Played Out’ which was a seminal football book, where the author was given unprecedented access to the camp and provided and honest and at times uncomfortable read, as the press tried to destroy the team before a ball was kicked following their own agendas, players openly mocked the excellent coach Bobby Robson, and English followers continued what had become an entirely expected period of hooliganism, the likes of which we hope will never be seen again.
Featuring FIFA footage of the tournament and behind the scenes shots which have never been seen before, this could have been the perfect accompaniment to the book, unfortunately it feels more like a cheap accessory which is unsatisfying and shallow.
For me this documentary really doesn’t do the book justice at all, whereas the book summed up a month wonderfully with interviews, honest views of the political and social environment and beautifully described moments which are unforgettable to any football fan, it also had moments of sourness and bitterness which really made the book something else, the documentary misses about 90% of these issues and as a result is simply a documentary about the build up to some football matches and the performances themselves.
The documentary begins by talking about the moves of Margaret Thatcher and then Sports Minister Colin Moynihan to attempt to control football, it also discusses the social discourse of the time with rave and poll tax riots, but for me it doesn’t do these in half as much detail as the book and suffers for it, therefore in its half baked way it makes the documentary seem shallow and poorly researched.
It also felt for me as though somebody wanted to attach a social essay onto a football documentary and fails on both counts. Its difficult to mess up the football, as for any England fan it was an emotional and rewarding tournament, to hear Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma whilst England fight for their survival is stirring stuff and the nineties music gives the whole thing a lift, but I found that whilst it is a good idea including music of the era, having music performed years before and after the event show a lack of attention which really rings through the whole production, how can Joy Division be on the soundtrack when they had parted years before the event? New Order with ‘World In Motion’ makes sense, Glasvegas makes none at all.
Another issue for me is the editing, at times actors are used as a narrative tool, their feet recreating the players moves, but this is just silly and I know in the documentary Zidane, watching his balletic movement proved to be the point of the film, but here it looks like a cheap stunt and distracts from the main story, rather than adding anything useful to the dvd.
Things like this are frustrating for anyone who has read the book, the interviews range from interesting to dated, Sir Bobby Robson talking about the way the press tried to destroy him is incredibly interesting, watching Paul Gascoigne is just sad, a talented man who clearly only knew how to play football and lacked the social skills to do anything other than try to please everyone and collapse under the weight of expectations.
The only area the film works on, is the montages and footage of Englands footballing progress, although this is easy to do, as it includes goals, penalties, tears, last minute winners, more penalties, Roger Milla, Gary Lineker, Gazza and our old beloved friends Germany, who play their regular role of crushers of our sporting dreams. Although a 5-1 many years later would clear many memories of the fear of German football, this latest world cup will have reignited the memories for many.
The progress of the team from weak beginnings against Ireland and some would say lucky wins against Cameroon and Belgium swept along a nation on a wave of optimism, were this team finally the ones to make us World Champions again, would the much malign but hugely respected Robson be able to do something others had failed? Was Robson picking the team, or had the players decided to take control for fear of embarrassment under a system they disliked and found difficult?
Narrated by Gary Oldman who clearly has an interest, but whose South London accent now bears a startling resemblance to Russell Crowe’s country spanning set of accents in Robin Hood doesn’t get below the skin of the piece, the writing is dull and overplanned, whilst it lacks any real humour or sociological finality.
For me this wasn’t necessary and takes away from a fantastic book, I would rather just watch the England matches again as I know the context of the games and what went on, with this DVD it simply tries to put it in a context which isn’t even always correct (As the musical choices show on the soundtrack.)