Archer and Duke debating

This is a Key Scene in the film, a dialogue between inmate Archer and warder Mr Duke, and perhaps the most important in the film's critique of the borstal system in the UK.

At nearly 8 minutes long, the scene is both intelligent and captivating, really bringing out the sharpness of Archer's argument:

Scene ScriptEdit

(Archer and Duke are in the recreation room. The rest of the inmates are at the chapel for Sunday morning worship, which Archer refuses to attend, claiming his right as an 'atheist'. Duke is therefore assigned to watch him.)

Duke: Archer..

Archer: Sir?

(Duke pours him some coffee from his flask)

Archer: Thanks, Mr Duke.

Duke: It won't happen again.

Archer: Ahh, it's lovely.

(Archer sits opposite Duke by a window. Singing of hymns is heard nearby)

Archer: Angels! (smirks)

Duke: You might be a smart-arse Archer, but you're nothing but a fool to yourself.

Archer: I get by.

Duke: You'll do the full stretch, do you know that?

Archer: Well..they're not having me, Mr Duke. Oh, I got to save meself whatever methods you bastards devise to destroy me. I'll get through it. Or..or I won't..but it's MY way.

Duke: Less lip, Archer. I won't have insolence. Talk's one thing, but I will not tolerate insolence. Right, lad?

Archer: Right, sir. (smirks)

Duke: Look at you, sitting there with that daft smile on your face. Why arn't you over there with the rest of them?

Archer: I'm an atheist.

Duke: What do you think that lot are, disciples? Every Sunday there's an officer allocated to watch you, just because you're too bloody pig-headed to sit in chapel for half an hour..and every Sunday that's a little bit more you owe us. You know what the boss is like - you're committing a mortal sin sitting here. They're all atheists, but they don't put it about. I did hear you were thinking of turning indian?

Archer: I think about all sorts of things.

Duke: Haven't you seen enough of them in here? Why don't you keep your nose clean and get out?

Archer: Boredom. Nah, never was much good at that.

Duke: Pass the time quietly.

Archer: You can't hear me moan, do you Mr Duke, eh? I smile, I smile a lot.

Duke: You're loose in the head, lad.

Archer: Yeah, you know when I was in 'The Scrubs', sweating it out in that filthy cell, well I had this matchbox..and it said on this matchbox that it takes 60 muscles to frown but only 13 to smile, so, why waste energy? You see, I'm doing me time in a matchbox.

Duke: Jesus Christ..

Archer: Do nothing to you in here, eh? Nothing. You know, when I was out I reminded myself you can take something good from every experience..but the only thing I'll take from borstal is evil.

Duke: Because you don't bloody toe the line.

Archer: No, it's not that Mr Duke, no..I mean, now you take Mr Goodyear - right, he rattles out bullshit about 'character building' morning, noon and night..well, it's's not on, how can anyone build a character inside a regime based on depravation? It's a One Way Contamination, good fine minds thrown in with crazy, perverted people..I mean, what am I doing here? Why arn't I on another wing there there might at least be someone to talk to, where I could be civilised? I'm always looking over me shoulder..see, if it's not a screw at me, it's a con. Why didn't they send me to an open nick?

Duke: You're too old for this lot, I'll give you that...they should've given you a prison sentence.

Archer: Right, you're right.

Duke: I was happier in prison. Now I've gotta finish MY time with a bunch of snotty young hooligans..2 years of this lot before I retire.

Archer: How long you done?

Duke: A long time.

Archer: That's a hefty sentence, Mr Duke. One way or another, in prisons.

Duke: Public service, Archer...haven't you realised that some of the lads actually LIKE being in here?

Archer: Uh, yeah, it's called institutionalised.

Duke: They're secure.

Archer: Ah well, in here you act, you're punished and you're free..but outside, out there, you act, you get punished by your own guilt complexes and you're never free.

Duke: And what little book did you get that from?

Archer: This one (taps head). Certainly not from what's on offer here...Mr Duke, I er...I don't wish to underestimate your lifetime's work, but, er..the punitive system does not work. I mean, my experience of borstal convinces me that more criminal acts are imposed on prisoners than by criminals on society.

Duke: Convinces you, eh? Fancy half of that mob charging up and down YOUR street? Fancy YOUR mother tackling that lot on the rampage? No you bloody well don' what do you do about it, eh? Come on, what do you do about it?

Archer: I, I'd talk about it first, like we are.

Duke: Talk's bullshit, you lock them up!

Archer: I'd also consider what happens to their guardians..

Duke: Watch it, lad.

Archer: No come on, I'm serious Mr Duke..well, take yourself..for a weekly wage you have been locking up men and boys for most of your working life, right? Now, hanging down your leg is a chain, your key-chain, and the length of that chain indicates the time you have spent in the service...right, you may not have been fortunate in terms of promotion, but the length of that chain gives you rank over other officers of..similar rank only..but at the same time it acts as a constant reminder that although you have spent your life in the prison service, you are still only a basic, who gets the stick for that? Us. Who pays for that daily humiliation?

Duke: (rising from seat) Stand up, Archer..and wipe that f***ing grin off your face before I knock it and number!

Archer: 4721, Archer, sir.

Duke: I give you my f***ing coffee, and think you can sit there and have the piss out of me?

Archer: No sir, I didn't...I, I never get the chance to express myself.

Duke: Then it's as well you don't, lad!

Archer: I was only concerned with men being stripped of their dignity, cons AND screws..we arn't much different in here, you know!

Duke: You're on report for insolence.

Archer: (sarcastically) Yes, sir.



See alsoEdit

Scene ClipEdit