The Damned United is one of my absolute favourite football films. On the one hand, the movie is based on historical facts about legendary English manager Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor, on the other hand on the book of the same title by David Peace. The biographic novel is enhanced with fictitious elements, and so is the film, but a lot of the rather dark elements of the book have been left out.
The novel as well as the movie tell of Clough’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United in the year 1974. Clough’s talent is to make great teams out of (below) average squads who play not only fairly but also beautifully. The audience gets a look behind the scenes of Clough’s work, his private life and his extraordinary, sometimes difficult character.
The historical football setting is supported by original footage and music of the corresponding time and fan subculture. The positive craziness and the friendship between the manager and his assistant are the dynamic feature in the story. This and rivalry between Brian Clough and his (alleged) enemy Don Revie make for the development of the main character who begins as arrogant know-it-all and turns into a humble team player. The humour gives the film a tragicomic extra.
It is very impressive how the camera catches the atmosphere of certain situations, and the camera angle often helps expressing emotions. In certain scenes you can literally feel Clough’s arrogance towards others, his tension during a match or his loneliness due to a defeat, it doesn’t matter if in his private life or in football.