Review

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The Independent Culture
Road Rage (BBC1), Inside Story's exploration of vehicular insanity, relied heavily on personal anecdote: a series of chastening tales of ordinary men and women driven to madness by the battle for road space. Unfortunately the hair-raising encounter you really wanted to hear about was missing. On Tuesday night, Channel 4, driving a souped-up documentary with furry dice dangling from its mirror, came scorching out of nowhere and swerved violently in front of the BBC. Instead of the advertised repeat about shoplifting you were given... Road Rage (C4), a documentary for the Cutting Edge series.

If Inside Story's producer was to imitate the response of some of the motorists in his own film he would go round to Channel 4's headquarters in Horseferry Road, break a few windows with a wheelbrace and then attempt to nut Michael Grade. But Ian Stuttard would be better advised to take a few deep breaths and reflect on a perfectly satisfactory outcome: Cutting Edge may have got there first but Inside Story was far more skillfully driven - a well-crafted film which managed to capture the tensions of driving in images, rather than merely lashing together some hard-shoulder horror stories. If, as psychiatrists in both programmes suggested, road rage is a compensation for perceived inadequacy, you could understand why Cutting Edge felt the need to floor the accelerator.

Their film had its moments, even so - the best offering being a reflective veteran of road-rage counselling, a pony-tailed young man with Sam Weller diction. "Ve uvver road user is proving to you vat you don't have power," he explained, trying to convey the sense of injured pride which leads to handbrake turns and 15-mile car chases. "You fink 'He's got ve balls to do vat to me?' " Retribution can be costly - the same man recalled the moment when he demonstrated his spherical superiority by refusing to give way while overtaking - he ended up with a concertinaed car and a party booking for his friends in a local casualty ward.

All of the talkers in Cutting Edge were filmed in their armchairs - a pair of wheeling, illustrative hands the closest you got to the cut-and- thrust of crowded tarmac. Ian Stuttard's film sensibly went out on the road, giving you speeded up images of the frenetic twitch of city driving, pictures that made you feel agitated just to look at them. A little montage of tapping fingers perfectly expressed the unique frustration of sitting caged and helpless in a machine designed and marketed as a liberation. And as well as some frightening accounts of highway violence Stuttard had caught incipient road-rage on camera, observing drivers as they made their intemperate way through the traffic. "Look at this fool parked here," sneered a bracing Liverpudlian woman. "Bloody double-yellow lines, DICKHEAD!"

Another man, an oafish misogynist straight from central casting, gave an effective demonstration of the delusional state that descends on many motorists - sitting in their enclosed bubble of self-righteousness. "They've got no f***ing patience," he said in exasperated tones. "Come on mate, pull forward will ya, fer f***s sake!" Oddly enough the same man appeared to be a reasonably courteous motorist, giving polite little waves of acknowledgement to the very drivers he had just been excoriating. That suggested that the problem was one of communication as much as anything else. The gestural language of the road is good at gratitude but contains no word for "sorry". So what might be instantly defused in a crowded tube carriage often escalates, accelerated by the fact that cars allow you not just to speak your mind but to scream it. In that respect they are little asylums that induce insanity rather than cure it.

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