I just watched the first episode of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders. It is a show based around a gang in Birmingham just after World War I. One episode is not enough to judge a TV show by, but the first episode has gotten my attention. The show makes you aware of many of the economic and cultural forces that shape life in poverty stricken Birmingham. As much stylization as the show has on the surface, it at least seems rooted in real world concerns. (It also seems like it will be featuring a great deal of sex and violence to reel in the casual viewer, those who might not be as interested in the the larger themes the show is hinting at.) However, I will deal with the show in further detail concerning its plot and meaning once I have watched more.
One thing that seems of undeniable quality is the cinematography and set design of the show. It is black on black almost to the point of looking like a Edgar Allen Poe story. When there are striking colors introduced, it is when the characters leave the slums of Birmingham. The only other use of color is in the dress of a beautiful girl from Ireland, who comes to the neighborhood to get a job.
The reason I am mentioning the look and feel of the show is that I couldn’t help but think of Black Sabbath. The seminal heavy metal band was from Birmingham. Although this show is obviously presenting a stylized noir version of the city, there is no question that the Birmingham of this period, and for many years later, was often a bleak place. My point being is that, for any of you that wondered why a town in England would father a band like Black Sabbath, you can get a pretty good idea of it here. In fact if I had any early criticism of the show at all, I wonder why they didn’t use Sabbath’s music, or music that was similar, given that they have already modernized the score. The show looks like Black Sabbath sounds. Many that only have a passing knowledge of Black Sabbath probably think of the typical fantasy imagery that many metal bands would go on to use. (To be fair Black Sabbath played into this perception at times.) But Sabbath sounded like they did for a reason. This was dark music reflecting the bleak surroundings of their environment.