Last Updated 07 Jul 2020

Contemporary Culture Seen Thru Post-War British Films

Category Culture
Essay type Film Analysis
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The British cinema of the Second World War has typically been exemplified in terms of its depiction of ‘the people's war’. The films which have attracted most crucial consideration are those which offered a picture of the British people at war, united regardless of class differences, and where the chronicles of individuals, heroic though they may be, were inspired into the greater story of the whole nation pulling together at a time of national crisis. Curran and Porter (1983) have identified, for the first time in British feature films, a genuine, true-to-life image of ordinary men and women.

Roger Manvell (1947)considered that films such as Millions Like Us, San Demetrio, London, Nine Men, The Way Ahead, Waterloo Road and The Way to the Stars ‘showed pe ople in whom we could trust and whose experience was as genuine as our own’. The reason for this pristine realism, according to Aldgate and Richards (2002) is usually clarified through the impact of the documentary movement, the progressive left-wing sector of the British film industry, on the mainstream feature film producers. The British film industry endeavoured to open out overseas. J.

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Arthur Rank, of the Rank Organization, extended his world-wide distribution. The Associated British Picture Corporation or ABPC joined Warner Brothers to institute distribution in the United States. Perry (1988) noted that Alexander Korda acquired London Films and British Lion, the former from MGM. Korda's London Films had in 1933 created The Private Lives of Henry VIII. He established circulation of his films in the United States through Twentieth Century Fox. Green (1983) illustrates that unlike the aspirations of the highly financed studios, Ealing Studios focused its labours on a series of modest comic films.

Teams of writer/directors made a series of remarkable films. The Boulting brothers, John and Roy, interchanged as director and producer of a series of films, including Brighton Rock (1947), The Magic Box (1951), Lucky Jim (1957), and I'm All Right, Jack (1959). The team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, operating under the label of the Archers and supported by J. Arthur Rank, made two specials, The Red Shoes (1948) and Tales of Hoffman (1951). The first popularised ballet while the second popularised opera.

Powell and Pressburger's Stairway to Heaven (also called A Matter of Life and Death, 1945) was the make-believe tale of a pilot who is mistakenly called to heaven so soon. One of the folklores that cropped up from war-weary Britain was a faith in the unity and equality of the community. The myth persisted for a brief time after the war, stimulated by expectations for the Labour government's experiment, when recuperating English society felt the likelihood of progressing the unity experienced in the "people's war" to decipher the nation's massive social problems.

The myth, in which all elements of society, even those not normally associating with one another, pull together, played out in a number of films, such as the Ealing films of Hue and Cry, Whiskey Galore, Passport to Pimlico, and The Blue Lamp. Michael Balcon of Ealing Studios produced these films as "fantastic escape. " The fantasy created was of a sense of community prompted by the world war. The distraction was in fancy and departure from actuality. Hue and Cry was the first of what have become known as the Ealing comedies and it started the fantasy foundation of community.

The setting in south London, an area devastated by the German blitz, was scheduled for enormous restoration in the years 1945-1953. In Hue and Cry, writer T. E. B. Clarke fixed on a London community of youths living and playing around a bombsite, who come together to overpower a gang of criminals. The young hero, Joe Kirby, spends time reading escapist pulp detective comics. Through a series of imaginary and strange encounters, Joe ascertains a criminal syndicate of black market operators using comic books as a code. Joe, with the help of the community of boys, suppresses the criminals, led by the evil Nightingale.

Manvell (1947) said that at the end of the war, British film was trapped in a struggle between its realist, documentary tradition and a pull toward the fantastic and expressionism. The anthology film Dead of Night (1945), co-directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton and Basil Dearden, caught some of this resistance. The film modifies from the factual to the Gothic. It makes use of expressionist techniques, such as a powerful mirror scene. Landy (1991) described that realism was a primary trait of British cinema during the war.

Realism was acknowledged with black and white, straight-forward narrative and characters. It was profoundly influenced by Britain's documentary tradition. However, many post-war films were answers to realism. Of course, realism comes in many forms. Some films used realism seemingly to expand the story line, as in Michael Anderson's The Dam-Busters (1954), the Boulting brothers' Seven Days to Noon (1950) or Michael Powell's The Small Back Room (1949). The Boulting film involved a reconstruction of the evacuation of London when the city is endangered by a scientist with an atomic device.

Powell's film integrated a long episode of the dismantling of a bomb. Ealing comedies, such as Hue and Cry and Passport to Pimlico, used realism as a framework for stories that were essentially non-realistic. In other films, such as Carol Reed's The Third Man or Odd Man Out, realism is used to heighten the drama and suspense. Other films used a documentary-style reconstruction, such as Charles Frend's Scott of the Antarctic (1948). The documentary-style opening of The Blue Lamp was an intentional device, although the story propagated the fantasy of community.

The documentary opening and closing of Whiskey Galore were essentially significant to the film's satire. Realism, as a predominant style, resurfaced in the late Fifties, leading to "new cinema" or social realism. Dickinson and Street (1985) said that expressionism, rather than realism, dominated many of the British productions. Most of the literary were highly yet successfully stylized, including Lean's adaptations from Dickens, Olivier's Shakespearean films, and Dickinson's The Queen of Spades. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes and Tales of Hoffman are examples of the stylization.

The films represent the nexus of several strands of film and literary tradition, including German expressionism of the 1920's, romanticism, Gothic, the combination of the arts, and the reaction of realism. The Red Shoes was a story by Hans Christian Anderson, derived from a story by E. T. A. Hoffman (1776-1822), a German romanticist, and influenced by life of Russian ballet director Diaghilev and dancer Nijinsky. It is the story of a ballerina torn between the control of two men -- her director, Lermontov, and her husband, Julian, a conductor.

Her husband wrote the score for a ballet just for her -- "The Red Shoes. " Lermontov directed her in it. Although Vicki is tough at the start, able to return "the gaze" of Lermontov, she soon loses her capability to endure either man. The men, primarily Lermontov, are puppet masters, using manipulation to restrain the female to the male's domination. Geraghty (1985) stresses that the battle of the masters is carried out on several levels. At the core of the struggle are the highly stylized ballet scenes, using images of Julian conducting, Lermontov directing and Vicki soaring on stage and in the air.

The shoe maker in the ballet is, likewise, a puppeteer. The expressionistic ballet, a combination of music, art, dance and film, is surrounded by the narrative, in which the dancer shifts loyalties between herself, Lermontov and Julian. Lermontov manipulates both dancer and conductor. Vicki finally escapes by injuring herself and ending forever her ability to dance. Lermontov continues the final performance of the ballet without a dancer in the lead role. Green (1983) said that The Tales of Hoffman was based on an opera of the German expressionist Jacques Offenbach.

It comprises film with little dialog. It recollects the universal visual language of the silent film. The various characters of the opera, which challenge and defy Hoffman, a nobleman/poet, include an array of manipulators -- an eye glass maker, a master of souls, and a demonic doctor. The filmed opera originally had four episodes, though one episode, hence another manipulator, was cut from the film. The film represents creator as monster and tormentor as well as tormented victim. This theme, said to cast Hoffman as a metaphor for Powell, recalls Lermontov and his tries to gets in touch with Vicki.

Both films utilise expressionist techniques such as the metaphors of the gaze and the mirror to symbolize and accentuate the struggle, which Werner Fassbinder has called sadism in the creative act and creation in destruction. Williams (1991) describes Both Powell and Pressburger films aim to create what Richard Wagner hoped to do with opera -- the total art by combining the visual with the aural. The Red Shoes mediates ballet cinematically. It interprets ballet into film rather than record ballet on film. The Tales of Hoffman interprets opera into film rather than record opera on film.

Adding to their stature, the creative collaboration of Powell and Pressburger combined the art tradition of European film and the technical advances of American film. Their films experimented with the new Technicolor technology. Low (1985) reports that the anti-realism traits of German expressionism, Gothic and fantasy even appeared in the Ealing comedies. At least twice in Hue and Cry -- when the hero and his friend climbed the stairs to the writer's apartment, and in the final fight with the criminal master-mind in the bombed building -- the camera angles and shadows evoked images of German expressionist films such as The Cabinet of Dr.

Caligari. The expressionistic device of the mirror appears in a number of films, such as Dead of Night, and The Blue Lamp. Likewise, the technique of "the gaze" appears in several films, including The Blue Lamp. Williams (1991) described the behaviour of the writer and the Victorian clutter of his apartment, and the passage of the children through the London sewers, both in Hue and Cry, evoked images of Gothic horror. Likewise, the Hammer horror films were a reaction to realism. Fantasy appeared in a variety of films, especially the Ealing comedies, including the fanciful idea of a sovereign Pimlico or Hue and Cry's children against crime.

These communities were rooted in fantasy not reality. They were no more than a daydream. British cinema after the Second World War can be distinguished by a number of features. The films were generally comedies, melodramas, literary or horror films. Among the features coming out through these films were 1) attempts to preserve the nostalgic values, such as community of wartime Britain, and 2) the denunciation of the realism and documentary style of the World War II films, particularly through expressionism and stylization. Britain today is a richly mixed society and culture.

Its residents typify a wide variety of national, cultural, racial and religious backgrounds and mixtures. That diversity is an outcome of a history, which has incorporated invasion, expansion, empire and Commonwealth, and Britain’s role as a retreat for people of all races. Murphy (2000) describes the British governments have taken measures to undertake problems of discrimination and disadvantage through pioneering such things as race relations legislation which makes racial discrimination an objectionable, and illegal practice, and through strategy to remedy disadvantage.

Britain’s ethnic diversity, with its range of and unique mix of cultural identities and heritages, describes and puts in worth to contemporary Britain. For instance, the Muslim society in Britain make a crucial and lively input to every facet of life from sports and the arts to business and even politics. This paper shall look into at least three film features created after the Second World War. First is Notting Hill which stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The film was a certified box-office hit not only in the United Kingdom but the world over.

Next is Four Weddings and a Funeral written by the same writer of Notting Hill. The last movie is Chariots of Fire. Britain’s contemporary cultural diversity is being studied through these film features. Notting Hill Notting Hill has a reputation as an affluent and fashionable area popular for its attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses and high-class shopping and restaurants. Residents are symbolised as young and affluent and many people who conform to such stereotypes are often referred to as "The Notting Hill Set", "The Notting Hillbillies", and "Trustafarians".

The area came to international attention with the release of the successful Hollywood movie of the same name. Notting Hill (1999) stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant use the characteristic features of the area as a backdrop to the action, including the Portobello Road antiques market and enclosed square gardens. Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy film set in the Notting Hill district of London,. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis who also wrote the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. In Western culture, we are fixated by the notion of celebrity.

This may be easily viewed with the enormous number of paparazzis everywhere that descend on public figures when they make appearances, or the popularity of gossip magazines and TV shows. Celebrities are treated like royalty - fascinating and untouchable, they become objects of unreasonable adoration. Perhaps one of the most common fantasies entertained by an average man or woman is what would happen if someone famous fell in love with them. And therein lies the premise of Notting Hill. Hugh Grant plays William Thacker, the owner of a small bookstore in London's Notting Hill.

Grant’s character is just an average Joe - when he's not working, he spends time with his friends and his wacky Welsh flat-mate, Spike played by Rhys Ifans, but has no romantic life to speak of. One day, however, the foundation of his way of life changes when Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts, a famous actress, walks through the door to his little shop. In London to publicize her new film, she's taking a break from the press and Notting Hill seems like a good place to lose them. Later, William literally runs into her in the street, spilling orange juice all over her. Annoyed and humiliated, he requests her to his place to clean up.

Much to his surprise, she accepts his offer, and, after changing outfits, she gives him a lingering kiss on the lips. William is immediately smitten and so, apparently, is Anna. Thus begins a turbulent relationship that asks whether a star can live happily ever after with somebody who has never had his face in the papers. Although Notting Hill is a pleasant enough motion picture, it isn't much more than that. It's a domesticated movie that takes few chances. Even the casting of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts is an example of playing it safe, since both are proven box office draws.

The comedy, while sporadically funny, occasionally feels forced and unnatural, as if screenwriter Richard Curtis was forced to ratchet up the level of humour at the cost of characters' integrity. Spike is a case in point. As portrayed by Rhys Ifans he's the constant butt of jokes but he achieves little purpose beyond that. He's a pure misrepresentation of a lewd lazy bone, and, whenever he comes on screen, he actually becomes a disturbance. Another problem with the film is that the romance is half-hearted. While there's a feeling of sociability and even affection between William and Anna, there was no passion felt between the two.

They appear more like brother and sister than lovers broken up by an army of publicists and photographers. The plot pursues the ordinary beat of a traditional romantic comedy: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy and girl get to know each other, then complications interfere. In this case, those complications come in the form of Anna's off-again/on-again boyfriend and the media. Notting Hill is not without its enjoyable moments. The relationship between two of William's friends, Max and Bella, is touching. There's an exciting conversation between William and Anna about why men are attracted to breasts.

And there's an appealing shot of William walking down a street in Notting Hill as the seasons change around him. The movie shows us how Britain has achieved tremendous changes after the war era. It is an attempt to penetrate the western movie market and this proved to be quite a difficult task at first. Four Weddings and a Funeral The simplest and most honest articulation of praise that can be presented to this Mike Newell's movie is that it epitomises two hours of solid movie magic. Four Weddings and a Funeral enjoys the extraordinary power to make an audience laugh and cry without ever apparent scheming or going desperately over-the-top.

Another Hugh grant movie who plays Charles is a serial monogamist or someone who moves from girlfriend to girlfriend without ever falling in love. His friends have started down the matrimonial road, but not Charles. Feelings of spending the rest of his life with someone never went through his mind, until one day at a wedding when he encounters Carrie played by Andie MacDowell, an American fashion editor. And, although the two enjoy a brief rendezvous at an inn, Charles' typical British uncommunicativeness comes in, and Carrie is on her way back to America before he recognizes he should have said something.

Here’s another movie that showcases cultural diversity in Britain were two individuals from different cultural backgrounds may have the possibility of ending up together despite their cultural diversity. Four Weddings and a Funeral is about four weddings and a funeral. While the central story of this delightful motion picture is somewhat common romantic comedy fare, it is structured by a plot packed with little twists and turns, lots of laughs, and a frothy, fascinating atmosphere. Mike Newell, whose recent directing credits include Enchanted April and Into the West, maintains to display a clever hand when it comes to good, escapist fun.

Newell's direction is unassuming -- he allows his actors and the script to carry the film, which results in an enjoyable mix of cheerful comedy with a dash of misery. Screenwriter Richard Curtis is fast to let the humour starts flowing, and once it starts, it never stops. The scenes most likely to cause irrepressible laughter happen during the second wedding and centre on Rowan Atkinson as a somewhat confused priest. It's not a shock that Atkinson feels at home with a Curtis script, since the two have teamed up on the British TV show Blackadder.

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a modern comedy with a very time-honoured theme. It mixes upright breeding and bad language; laughter and tears; and marriage and friendship into a thoroughly enjoyable whole. This movie showcases how Britain has become one of the world’s best movie producers. It was so popular across the globe which highlighted the greatness of Britain. Chariots of Fire Sporting events today have become vicious, angry affairs where the slogan, more frequently than not, is "win at all costs. " Demonstrations of good sportsmanship are about as rare as altruism.

Everyone is out for themselves, and the displays of athletes like Albert Belle, John McEnroe, and Dennis Rodman can sit in the stomach like a large piece of heavy matter. So it's invigorating to look back at an era when triumph didn't command seclusion, resentment, and disgust of one's rivals. Chariots of Fire, the Oscar-winning 1981 film, delights us to the 1924 Olympics, and, in the process, highlights such laudable qualities as loyalty, determination, and fraternity. That's not to say that winning isn't important to the competitors in Hugh Hudson's film.

On the other hand, for British track stars Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Lidell (Ian Charleson), it's a principal anxiety, but neither is so fixated by their ambition that they lose sight of the larger picture. Eric is a devout Christian who runs because he considers it venerates God. Harold is a Jew who struggles as a way of establishing his worth. Both are driven by an internal fire, and have nothing but reverence for their competitors. Chariots of Fire tells the story of the British triumphs at the 1924 Olympics, where the UK representatives took a number of medals over the heavily-favoured Americans.

With Abrahams and Lidell leading the way, the British track team had one of their best-ever showings. This film outlines the two principal athletes' paths to the Paris games, where their on-field victories form a astoundingly low-key climax. Chariots of Fire doesn't depend on worn-out sports film cliches; it's more fascinated in enthusiasm and character improvement. Yes, it's essential to know that Abrahams and Lidell win, but the real essence of the story is enclosed in what leads up to the races.

Like in Sylvester Stallone's first Rocky, it's probable to claim victory before the competition begins -- Lidell because he has holds fast to his beliefs and Abrahams because gives all he has to give. At the time when Chariots of Fire was first released, many of the major cast members, including Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, and Alice Krige, were relative unheard of. All give strong presentations, and each was remunerated with future parts in other productions. Some identifiable faces fill supporting roles, including Sir John Gielgud as the Master of Trinity College and Ian Holm as Abraham's mentor, Sam Mussabini.

There's barely a trace of exaggerated scenes in Chariots of Fire, which makes the film-watching experience all the more effective -- director Hugh Hudson shows respect for the veracity of his material and the cleverness of his audience. The deficiency of maudlin moments supplies the storyline with an authentic quality that supports its factual background. Not only do we care about the characters, but we admit that they really existed. In fact, the entire production declares that same sense of atmosphere. Most sports movies counts on melancholy and adrenaline -- Chariots of Fire stands up on strong writing, direction, and acting.

Approval of this picture doesn't require a love of sports, simply an understanding of human nature. Conclusion Immigrant, ethnic minority, asylum-seeker - slivers of intimation divide the meanings of each term in contemporary Britain. Ethnic minority, black and Asian, cultural diversity - clouds of confusion have distinguished contemporary arts in Britain over the past 30 years. Cook (1981) declares that notably, every liberal political measure undertaken so far to correct injustices - the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry into institutional racism being only the most recent - has proven ineffectual.

Racism is not an intellectual failure that can be corrected by a greater dose of education. It is a moral value, however much one may abhor such a morality. It is an imaginative construct and so the engineers of the imagination - artists - find themselves in the frontline, their weapons being the pen or the hand or the body or the voice. Gilette (2003) discloses Post-war British film was both a response to the world war and a reaction to the film styles of the war and post-war periods. As a response to the war, post-war films adopted a style of pseudo-realism to construct a post-war fantasy world.

This fantasy, sometimes captured as a daydream, attempted to preserve the spirit of the war years, including the values of community and egalitarianism. This daydream or fantasy world also served as an escape from the memory of the war and the disappointment over the failure of a new society in post-war Britain. As a reaction to the war, post-war films revolted against the realism of the war-period films. They utilized and integrated strands of romanticism, expressionism, and the Gothic. References: Aldgate, A. and Richards, J. 2nd Edition. 1994. Britain Can Take it: British Cinema in the Second World War.

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Barr, Charles; Ed. 1986. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema. London: British Film Institute Aldgate, A. and Richards, J. 2002. Best of British: Cinema and Society from 1930 to the Present. London: I. B. Tauris Barr, C. Ealing Studios (London: Cameron & Taylor, 1977). Cook, D. A History of Narrative Film (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1981). Curran, J. and Porter, V. ; Eds. 1983. British Cinema History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson Dickinson, M. and Street, S. 1985. Cinema and the State: The Film industry and the British Government, 1927-84.

London: BFI Friedman, Lester; Ed. 1992. British Cinema and Thatcherism. London: UCL Press Geraghty, Christine. 2000. British Cinema in the Fifties: Gender Genre and the New Look. London Routledge Gillett, P. 2003. The British Working Class in Postwar Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press Green, I. "Ealing in the Comedy Frame," in British Cinema History, eds. , James Curran and Vincent Porter (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1983). Landy, M. 1991. British Genres: Cinema and Society, 1930-1960. Princeton University Press Low, R. 1985. Film Making in 1930s Britain.

London: George, Allen and Unwin Rotha, Paul. 1973. Documentary diary; an informal history of the British documentary film, 1928-1939, New York: Hill and Wang Swann, Paul. 2003. The British Documentary Film Movement, 1926-1946. Cambridge University Press Manvell, R. ‘The British Feature Film from 1925 to 1945’, in Twenty Years of British Film 1925–1945, eds M. Balcon, E. Lindgren, F. Hardy and R. Manvell (London, The Falcon Press, 1947), p. 85. Murphy, Robert. 2000. British Cinema and the Second World War. London: Continuum Murphy, R; Ed. 1996. Sixties British Cinema. London: BFI

Orwell, G. "England, Your England" (1941), in A Collection of Essays (New York: Doubleday, 1954). Perry, G. 1988. The Great British Picture Show. Little Brown, 1988. Porter, V. "The Context of Creativity: Ealing Studios and Hammer," in British Cinema History, eds. , James Curran and Vincent Porter (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1983). Powell, Pressburger and Others (British Film Institute, 1978). Shaw, T. 2001. British Cinema and the Cold War. London: I. B. Tauris Williams, T. various lectures, The Survey of Film History, fall semester, 1991, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

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