Our first film review of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival is of David Graham Scott’s The End Of The Game. And what a place to start. When documentary is at its best it trumps fiction every time as it gives us stranger and more telling tales. It is certainly the case that if someone was to write a character such as ‘Sir’ Guy Wallace, the focus of The End Of The Game, then an editor would dismiss him as being unbelievable. But when faced with the real thing, he is impossible to ignore.
He is a man whose story needs a film-maker as fair and even-handed as Graham Scott for audiences to see behind the facade and try to understand just what makes the man who he is. It would have been all too easy for the director to hold his subject up to ridicule. There is a lot of humour in the film, but it is as much pointed to the man behind the camera as to the one it is trained on, and much of it comes from their two very different worlds colliding. But, as with the likes of fellow documentarian Jon Ronson, Scott tries to understand the personality and the driving passion of his subject. It is the result of an inquisitive mind, and one which is keen to see the best in people, even when initial evidence may prove otherwise. Other filmmakers could learn a lot in terms of approach and perspective
There will be people who bring their prejudices to the film, in fact it would be almost impossible to do otherwise, but as you see Guy through Graham Scott’s lens you share his empathy, if not exactly sympathy. For as much as this is a film about the realities of hunting big game it is also about ageing and trying to remain relevant in a world you no longer recognise as your own. I’m sure everyone can think of someone they know for whom that description is apt. They may not spend their life savings on a last great buffalo hunt, but they are certain that “things ain’t what they used to be” and we are all the worse for it.
I should also say that the film is quite beautifully shot. From the wilds of Caithness to the dusty landscape of the South African reserve, the camera paints beautiful and epic pictures which give a sense of the transient and ultimately insignificant lives on-screen, both human and animal. There are also some stunning black and white stills near the end which are incredibly powerful due to the juxtaposition of their beauty and their subject matter.
The End Of The Game is an honest and brave film to make, but is also funny, bittersweet, sad and poignant – it is all those things because it is an intrinsically human story which has been told, highlighting failings, pride, guilt, embarrassment and ego not only from its central character but from the film maker as well. This can be seen in moments such as when David Graham Scott protests his innocence in the undertaking to a local woman, then in voice over admits feeling guilt at his complicity, or when Guy tries to show off by talking about “Kaffirs” to the white hunters, then realises he has been overheard by a black African and appears mortified and contrite, or at least embarrassed. It is in these moments that you will recognise yourself, not in the specifics, but in men trying to present a front but deep-down knowing they are flawed. For all of the above reasons and more The End Of The Game is an unforgettable film, and one which I urge you not to miss.
..and here is the trailer: