Get Back isn’t just about the Beatles. Here’s what it taught me about life today

There was much less plastic, much finer dressing and no time spent staring at screens - making room for extraordinary creativity

A lot of great stuff has been written about what the film Get Back has taught us about the Beatles. I wonder if I might chip in with what the film taught us about other stuff.

First, how much less plastic and packaging there was back then. Sandwiches were brought in on actual plates and tea was drunk from actual cups. Today, within a short walk of that building at 3 Savile Row in the West End of London, I make it 19 branches of Pret a Manger, 14 Starbucks, four Sainsbury’s, three Marks & Spencers and two Tescos. The making of that film about those rehearsals and that performance would today have generated skipfuls of bad stuff.

Then there’s the clothes. The Beatles and a handful of techies are dressed like Austin Powers at his most laid-back; all the others are sober in suits. Now, most of us are lounging around in the sartorial centre ground.

The absence of mobile phones. An obvious one this but, without small screens to stare at, how present they all have to be. Now they’d surely be engrossed in other stuff, playing each other bits and bobs to listen to, instead of just playing. And much of the sniping would be done by text, to each other and confidants elsewhere. Creative angst and energy would have leaked out of the room.

The boring bits. In these stretches are to be found the true beauty of the film, a triumph for slow television. I presume it always takes long stretches of enervating struggle, with all its tedium and tetchiness, to make great art. But ordinary film and television rarely give time to this process, for, to be fair, obvious reasons. We never get to see it. In a lesser, shorter film, no time would have been wasted getting to that brilliant moment McCartney conjured up Get Back. It would still have been jaw-dropping, but without all the context we’d have missed out on the real magic.

  • Adrian Chiles is a Guardian columnist


Adrian Chiles

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