Both films central ideas are based around the theme of hardship in the North during the late 20th century (1950-1990). Both directors have chosen to specifically highlight the lack of opportunity there is for someone to excel and have a job that matches their talents. Both boys find something that they are passionate about but it is extremely hard for them to break out from the norm of after finishing school (at a considerably much younger age than we would finish) was being sent off to the mines.
It is interesting to note that even though the films span the gap between Yorkshire in the late 1960’s to around 1984-85, the way the people live their lives and their standards of living seem not to have changed very much at all. Apart from the addition of very few cars, the houses and livelihoods of the people appear almost exactly the same.British New Wave Cinema was concerned with the realism of the situation in the North and directors such as Ken Loach (Kes) tried to make this very obvious in his film.
The work of directors working in the British New Wave era drew attention to the reality of life for the working classes, especially in the North of England, giving rise to the expression, “It’s grim up north”. This particular type of drama, centred around class and the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life, was also known as the kitchen sink drama. This kitchen-sink drama is especially obvious in Kes because the style and cinematography of the film is very natural and realistic.
In fact, Ken Loach used hardly any professional actors but instead hired relatively unknown and sometimes just people from the surrounding area with no acting experience in the film. The style of the filming is also very real, containing relatively few obviously symbolistic sections and having minimal editing but instead long drawn out shots without cuts to a different perspective. This added to the sense of reality and made the film seem almost too simple as if you were seeing it through someone’s eyes and not through multiple cameras’.Both Billy Casper and Billy Elliot are similar characters. They both seem to wear virtually the same clothes everyday, consisting of a school uniform and their recreation clothes. These clothes get worn and worn again no matter what the boys have been doing in them. They also seem to only just fit both the Billy’s. This is probably to suggest that they cannot afford and new clothes. They do not wear any ‘brand names’ also implicating their poor financial status. Another similarity between the boys is their ‘broken household.’ Casper’s father is not talked about or featured at all, meaning his mother and the two boys have to sustain themselves. As we see, this is the root of Billy’s thieving and the reason for his having to take on a paper round. It also explains why it is so important for him to be employed and why he may have to accept his fate of having to work in the mines. This is also the case in Elliot’s household. During the course of the film we hear quite a lot about the death of Billy’s mother and how this has affected the family.However, as a difference to Kes, the film focuses much more on how the death of this figure in their lives affects them emotionally, as appose to the neutral feeling Kes gives about the absence of Casper’s father. One might guess that this has been done to conform to the types of film being made at the time. Audiences in the 1990’s and 2000’s needed a character to sympathize with and this addition of ‘feeling’, empathy or emotion into Billy Elliot gives the audience this. It means that Billy Elliot cannot really be classed as a British New Wave film because the film has been ‘romanticised’ to a certain extent and therefore has moved away from the harsh reality of films like Kes and Billy Liar (1963) which truly have their roots in British New Wave.Another similarity between Kes and Billy Elliot is the storylines of the two films. Both the Billy’s find something they are truly passionate about, a rare occurrence in a society with little scope for experimenting, and follow whatever this obsession passion is about. For both boys their hobby is rather like a release from the monotony of the life they had known and this makes them want to continue their hobby purely for the need of change and excitement in their lives. This is wonderfully represented in the British New Wave genre. Because the genre typically focuses on the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life the audience are given an insight into this monotonous existence and so when the characters find their passion, want them to continue and be successful because they can sympathize with the needs of the character.Nevertheless the outcomes of the two plots are very different. In Kes, there is not a happy ending. This fits perfectly into the ideals of British New Wave cinema. It is real-life and in real life there are no happy endings. Moreover, we are not told the end of Casper’s story, and the film ends in an almost finished manner, the audience left to speculate what kind of life Billy will go on to lead. Unfortunately, the audience assumes from what they know of the opportunity for differentiation in his culture, that he has eventually to face up to his fears and work down the mines. Interestingly, this suspicion of Casper’s fate is possibly even confirmed by the film Billy Elliot, in that standards of living and the general kind of lives Northern people are able to lead have hardly changed at all after more than 15 years. On the other hand, we do get to find out what happens to Billy after his ‘journey’ to discovery in dance. The end sequence pictures the happy romanticised ending that a modern audience expects (and unfortunately usually gets). This again goes against the ideas of British New Wave cinema.DIFFERENCES:One of the major differences between Kes and Billy Elliot is the representation of the conflict between social classes. In Billy Elliot the dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson is portrayed as being from a slightly more upper class circle than Billy. This can be seen in the area that she lives in. when both Billy and his dad go to see her separately the differences between their two homes and neighbourhoods are glaringly obvious. Even more so, the divide between social classes being portrayed here is shown when Mrs. Wilkinson appears to be completely alienated, nervous and scared when visiting Billy in his tough, dog-eats-dog world.One of the central ideas of British new wave cinema is giving a voice to the working class. Britain today is still a society in many ways defined by class, but in the 1950s divisions were far more rigid as can be seen in the large division between Mrs. Wilkinson’s and Billy’s world. The ‘new wave’ films and the sources that inspired them gave a voice to a working-class that was for the first time gaining some economic power. In Billy Elliot, the point that had been trying to be made in British new wave cinema of the 50s and 60s was being reiterated and applied to the new generation. The director of Billy Elliot maybe wanted to prove that even though economy had moved on leaps and bounds for the southern population, it was still unmoving up in the north. The director gave these people a voice in Billy Elliot.Kes hardly shows the distinction between the classes at all, only touches on it with the inclusion of characters such as the careers advisor and the friendly teacher (who can be identified as higher class by the ownership of a car). However, the conflict and stark differences between these classes are not explored in this film. This was the case in many new wave films. Interestingly, only Room at the Top (d. Jack Clayton, 1958) and Look Back in Anger (d. Tony Richardson, 1959) look directly at conflict between working-class and middle-class characters. The later films concentrate on conflicts within the working-class contrasting ‘rough’ (the very poor, unskilled, criminal and hedonistic – represented by characters like Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (d. Karel Reisz, 1960) and Colin Smith and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, d. Richardson, 1962) with ‘respectable’ (skilled, aspirational, educated and ‘moral’ – such as the heroes of John Schlesinger’s films: Vic Brown in A Kind of Loving (1962) and the life that Billy Fisher in Billy Liar (1963) appears to lead).