Diversity makes a defining a ‘British’ film very challenging. Some UK Film Council definitions: ◦ Films principally shot in the UK, using a British crew/cast ◦ Film’s financed from within the UK ◦ Film’s that are set in the UK ◦ Film’s that address British Identity and Society
Range of definitions – 32 in total, but to qualify as a British film only 16 must be met. One is that the film represents/reflects a diverse British culture, British heritage or British creativity (so we don’t just make lots of imitations of American films)
Yes:- Director – Paul Greengrass is British Large section is filmed in London, some studio work at Pinewood Largely British crew No:- Doesn’t reflect British themes or concerns Lots of other locations Produced by Universal – Frank Marshall and Doug Liman are American Universal are American owned company
If we can’t define, we can recognise traits and conventions of specific trends and cycles: enough to be genres?
• Costume dramas: A Room with a View• Historical Epics: Pride and Prejudice• Literary Adaptation: Remains of the Day Merchant-Ivory – winning brand of Heritage cinema created by producer-director team. Normally a period piece, set in Edwardian England featuring lavish sets and genteel characters.
‘Kitchen sink’ stage/TV dramas of 1960s Ken Loach: Kes, Raining Stones, Sweet Sixteen Mike Leigh: Abigail’s Party, Naked, Meantime Social issues explored in complex fashion but often shocking and depressing.
First funded by television – especially Channel 4 in 80s Nick Broomfield: His Big White Self, Biggie and Tupac, Tracking Down Maggie Nature documentary sold around the world – often turned into theatrical release. E.g. Deep Blue (cinema version of The Blue Planet) and Earth (cinema version of Planet Earth)
Specialeffects industry developed with Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey Lotsof Sci-Fi filmed at Pinewood and Shepperton studios: from Alien to Harry Potter
Hammer studios was a British production company that led the world in horror during the 50s and 60s (although this was partly through distribution deals with US owned studios such as Warner Brothers). Managed to have significant impact on world market – famous for a certain style of Horror that low budgets, but nonetheless appeared lavish, making use of quality British actors and cleverly designed sets.
First produced by Working Title films Four Weddings and a Funeral – grossed £240 million worldwide Sliding Doors, Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bridget Jone’s Diary.
Fame of British pop music established UK as leader in youth culture Films capitalised on this: Quadraphenia (Mods), Performance (Hippies), Human Traffic (Ravers), This is England (Skinheads) and Control (Indie). Popular globally because Mods, Hippies, Ravers, Skinheads from any country will want to watch their own ‘subculture’. Youthful ennui and sense of rebellion is universal
Crime cinema has always been popular – Hell is a City, Blue Lantern Films like Get Carter were able to be more downbeat and violent than American films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels started a new trend in 90s for fast-talking cockney gangster films: Snatch, Essex Boys, Gangster No1, Layer Cake
How are images ofthe ‘British’ used tomarket films?
‘Heritage’ cinema Literary adaptations ‘Urban Fairytale’ UK Film used to reinforce patriotism (for domestic audience) UK Film used as tourist marketing strategy (for foreign audiences)
Conforms to US market’s stereotype of the British – ‘Anglophilia’. Like cinematic tourism. Reinforces nostalgic vision of Britain and British values to domestic audience ‘Escapist’/positive representation of modern Britain ‘Literary’ status – treated as ‘prestige’ films (for an ‘intelligent’ audience); book franchises (Becoming Jane, The Jane Austen Book Club, Clueless – Austen as a genre)
Stereotypes of Britishness: polite, reserved, aristocratic, chirpy cockney, honourable etc. Concentration on upper middle class lifestyles Nostalgic, romanticised vision of the past Literary associations (adaptation, biography) ‘Heritage’ cinema – visual pleasure of sumptuous costume and set design ‘Urban fairytale’ elements – romantic comedies, sanitised images of Britain, mostly white middle class characters, strong women supported by close-knit friends
Opposite of Heritage cinema – critical of British life, not reinforcing patriotic values (Trainspotting: “It’s shite being Scottish!” Challenging to audience’s comfort zones: unflinching portrait of harsh reality of modern Britain Often shocking examination of dark side of human behaviour; explicit sex, violence, drugs. Deals with social problems (drugs, poverty, violence, child abuse) explicitly but with complexity Often focuses on working or ‘underclass’ characters
Rival to ‘saccharine’ sentimentality of Hollywood films – more daring and shocking. Liberal art-house audience who like cinema to challenge their preconceptions and comfort zones. Makes middle class audiences feel secure by contrasting characters lives. Critical success – ‘serious’ film for more ‘intelligent’ audiences.
Claire Monk’s phrase for historical dramas that don’t just ‘display’ the past, but ‘interrogates’ the past and our relationship to it. Questions how the past is represented. Explores contemporary themes in historical setting.
Still lots of authentic period mise-en- scene Often beautifully lit and shot Well received by fans of historical films But doesn’t shy away from ‘historical realism’ and the harsh realities of the past – not romanticised. So enjoyed by more ‘serious’ audiences.
Case This isStudy: England (Shane Meadows, 2007)
Born in 1972 and lived most of his life in the Midlands – the setting of all of his films. His first proper feature-length film is Twenty Four Seven (1997) and like many of his films this was largely autobiographical and focussed on incidents from his past. His most recent films, This is England (2006) and Somers Town (2008) have seen his profile as a director grow and grow.
Tends to make films that have similar themes (effects of violence, revenge) or characters (loners, impressionable-yet-strong boys) that reflect his own upbringing. Similar setting – in and around the Midlands area. DIY approach to filmmaking – little or no formal training. Encourages actors to ad lib in order to create the impression of real people and thus create a better sense of reality. Tends to work with similar actors (Paddy Considine, Thomas Turgoose) and screenwriters (Paul Fraser).
Originated in the late 1960’s, came from mods who were welcomed into the reggae clubs in London. Here they discovered ska music and the key components of the skinhead look. The skinhead culture was taken up by black and white working class kids working in shipyards and factory lines.
Second wave of skinheads fused ska music, like Madness and The Specials, with a new punk genre, called ‘OI!’ music - romperstomper, energetic music, charged for fighting. In the 80s teens from areas of high unemployment looking for solidarity, who were ignored by Thatcher’s ‘me’ culture, were especially vulnerable to the advances of the National Front.
‘The skinhead, because of their aggression and outward appearance, they’re almost soldier-like, were I suppose almost handpicked to become soldiers for the National Front. You don’t see the contradiction that you’re being indoctrinated into the National Front whilst listening to black music. When I first heard about the National Front, the picture that was painted to me was a Churchillian vision of Asian families rowing into the white cliffs of Dover on boats, and that skinheads would be on the beaches fighting to stop them entering your country. As a twelve-year-old kid that’s quite a romantic image. It’s almost like ‘what your granddad did.’ ‘When you’re twelve and no-one in your town can get a job, and someone comes up to you and says ‘these people are to blame’ it’s easy to believe. I did for about three weeks, some people still believe that as adults and that’s frightening.’
‘It’s not to do with colour so much, it’s to do with identity and belonging.’ - Shane Meadows
Watch the clip. How is ‘England’ being defined? How is ‘Britishness’?
How do the connotations of the flag change for Shaun? What does this flag mean to you? Having looked at the film do you think these associations have changed over time? Does the flag have specific group association now? Is the flag something to which you feel any kind of allegiance? Where do these ideas/feelings come from?
QuestionWhy do you think we see amontage of the Falklands war atthe end of the film, just afterMilky has been nearly beaten todeath?
How is British national identity defined? How is it problematised? Is this an accurate portrayal of British life? Is it nostalgic? For a ‘historical’ film, how is it relevant to today’s audiences? How does it differ from other British films? How ‘British’ is it?