Raining Stones I: Money/The Church/Family: For your Own Personal Truth

By Marit Khan

By the time this issue of Vertigo has come out Raining Stones will have finished being shown in its limited cinema distribution in England. Its next life will be on TV. In order not to shut the door on films such as Raining Stones once they have been shown, we have asked four different people to give their views on what the film has meant to them. In so doing we want to generate debate around the cinema in England which goes beyond the short preview/review cycle of most films.

Unemployed family man Bob needs to purchase a communion dress for his daughter Coleen, refuses to accept charity (a dress) from the Church/Father Barry, but to borrow money visits a loan shark/Tansey, whom he inadvertently murders while only intending to cause him some bodily harm. This is the narrative exchange – giving Coleen/Family away to the Church for money, and collecting on your daughter’s communion with an act of violence for your own salvation.

Bob is proud. The Church is not. Money isn’t any issue for her after centuries of her own pilfering and of being desecrated for her riches and gold. The Church has been committing its own emotional violence far longer than Tansey, through ‘individual guilt and fear’. The Church is an even bigger loan shark.

Bob buys into a Church initiation rite with a dress, kills because of it and pleads forgiveness. The Church/Father Barry sanctifies the act and burns Tansey’s book of names. Bob is able to afford the dress and look after his family. Father Barry calls it justice. Meanwhile Bob is on his way to accepting the Church’s love and prayer, and implicitly its greater demand for recompense. This is the barter point of the Church and the narrative: taking the precepts of the Church/Society to construct a Story/Family (text) for your own personal and didactic cause. This is Loach using a communion dress as a grail.

Bob is a sacrificial lamb. The Church shits on him, literally (when he unblocks their drains). His friend, Tommy, moons at a patrol helicopter. (The State buggers you up the arse.) There is nothing radical about Father Barry’s advice to Bob. So we are vulnerable inside the machinations of a fucked-up State, yet we need both the Church and the State to be fair, common-sense ones.

For Ken Loach, religion isn’t about mysticism or supernatural ritual. It is quotidian, routine, mundane. We cannot escape our humanness, when we, with our humanness, are caught inside the position of being defined in terms of a greater power. Whether this power is Christ, the Church or the State, we feel that we have to fight against it (or succumb to it). We are caught between a commitment to ourselves and to our hopes. We may possess different fundamentals, but in the taking of that bread and wine (life) we hope to find some mutuality between ourselves and the Church/State.

While female futures are resolved through dreams and drugs (Tommy’s daughter, through the use/sale of tabs, and the jokes from both wives about needing sugar daddies), Bob’s future is an unequivocal fight. Bob provides for his family, and will assume a moral/political position towards anything that may oppose this.

Coleen’s communion is about a dress, baking and photo-calls. It isn’t a question of being religious or of belief, but of living religiously, struggling with crutches, dole cheques/daily bread. This is the truth of the grail. Religion is as drab as Manchester. Religion is also boring when you successfully apply her tenets.

This is ostensibly a very religious movie. Manchester could have been on the next pilgrim trail. Raining Stones is only politicising the Church by formulating a pro-religious story that may seem to have morally affected its main character/cipher by choosing to fight its cause within the text/story/characters (moral space) as opposed to exteriorising/overtly treating the mechanisms of the dialectic between Church-Individual, State-Individual.

This isn’t anticlericalism: glamorous, superficial, iconic as in the cases of Fellini and Buñuel. This is life, with religion being reclaimed as inoffensive and morally profound, to suit the structural/textual demands of your narrative and the tenets of your own didactic purpose.’

Raining Stones, dir. Ken Loach

Marit Khan is a film and video student at the London College of Printing.