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The Impact of World War Two on British Cinema

jclarke | Tuesday December 03, 2013

Categories: A Level, OCR A Level, OCR AS, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film History, Cinema in Context, Film Industry, Censorship & Regulation, Copyright & Licensing, Film Distribution, Film Marketing, Film Publicity, Film Promotion, Production Companies, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, In Which We Serve, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Genres & Case Studies, Drama, Romance, War, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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World War Two impacted ferociously on Great Britain: cities were attacked by German bombers, air battles were fought and daily life was severely tested over the six years of conflict. It’s understandable though, if the war seems a long, long time ago to you. Cinema, however, offers us a meaningful way to reconnect with, and reflect on the event and to develop a sense of the relationship between World War Two and British cinema. Attendance at cinemas was acutely influenced by the war and, perhaps most interestingly, in terms of the kinds of film that were made. Later in this resource we will refer to two film texts that exemplify British cinema’s output during this period.

In exploring aspects of the impact of World War Two on British cinema we need to focus our attention on the following contexts: the historical, the sociological, the economic and the technological. By extension, each of these contexts informs a particular film text and this is a relationship that we understand to exist across the range of Film Studies subjects. Underpinning all of these considerations is the idea of national identity, a concept that is usefully understood as involving the idea that “Nations are not just political formations. They are also systems of cultural representation…? (1)

National identity and cinema are inextricably connected around the world. Within this national cinema dynamic is to be found the question of what it might mean to ‘be British’, or, more specifically, English. It’s a question that’s the basis of a longstanding narrative that relates powerfully to our filmic identity and, more immediately, our identity as an island nation, physically and culturally (and economically) separate to the mainland of Europe.

If you watch, read or listen to the news (itself a set of constructed narratives that follow generic patterns) you will often come across articles (stories) about various complicated...

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