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The Battle of Algiers (1966) Case Study

Rob Miller | Wednesday October 29, 2014

Categories: A Level, WJEC A Level, WJEC A2, FM4, Section C: Single Film Critical Study, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, The Battle of Algiers, Genres & Case Studies, Crime, Drama, History, War, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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FM4 Section C Single Film - Critical Study

The whole film can be watched here.

In 2010, The Guardian newspaper published a story entitled “Algeria (national football squad) prepare for World Cup battle by watching The Battle of Algiers.”. Given the centrality of football to our contemporary popular culture, this incident might offer some suggestion of the cyclical power of cultural discourse and the transmission of a given film text’s thematic content in terms of the process of how it is decoded and appropriated by particular audiences at particular moments in time.

The Battle of Algiers has been much written about over the nearly fifty years since its original release. At the Sight & Sound page for the film we read the following comment about the film: “One of the cinema’s great political masterpieces, as important as Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin 40 years earlier…” [1] It is a film that is widely accepted as a classic of modern world cinema and, by the word ‘classic’ we mean a cultural product that continues to allow audiences, beyond its original audience the chance to generate meanings and points of relevance around it for their particular moment in time. As such, audiences have agency (or control) over the film because the audience bestows a specific meaning on a text.

The Battle of Algiers is a war film and so, in identifying its genre category it’s useful to sketch out here what genre can achieve in broad terms. Here’s a definition of genre from The BFI Cinema Book: “ a framework of structuring rules, in the shape of patterns / forms / styles / structures / which act as a form of ‘supervision’ over the work of production of filmmakers and the work of reading by an audience… genre analysis, which looks for repetitions and variations between films rather than originality or individuality…” [2]

Gillo Pontecorvo’s film dramatizes issues that remain...


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