This course is intended to introduce students to some significant debates within British film studies through a focus on three key areas underpinning the varied representation of London on film: landmark London as a cinematic city, the divergent spaces of London, and capital’s relationship to film genres. Major strands will include the relationship between London, the advent of moving images and the birth of the cinema industry; the cultural role of cinema within the capital through the importance of institutions such as Film London, the National Film Theatre and the British Film Institute: the cinematic portrayal of the capital and its intersection with particular genres, styles, filmmakers and historical periods; London as both ‘realist’ and ‘fantasy’ wonderland; the evolution of London (as relayed on film) as a thriving urban space marked by increased gentrification, cosmopolitanism and architectural redevelopment; and the recent restaging of London’s cityscape as the site for new forms of blockbuster cinema.
Films screened across the module will explore both the tribulations of fictional Londoners such as James Bond and Mary Poppins, but also focus on its real-life inhabitants that have dually shaped and contributed to London’s own big-screen history as a cinematic city. Within each session, the course will draw on both historical critical material and current film studies writing to provide an overview of the evolution of discussions within film studies around British cinema (and its future). The wider concerns of theoretical writing about both London and its place within the Empire, and about the city within film as a potent symbol of modernity will form a persistent element of the course, as we carefully map in detail the cinematic landscape of the capital.
By the end of the module, you should have:
- a firm grasp of British film history from 1896 to the present, both in terms of production cycles and contexts and in terms of relevant critical debates and movements.
- a clear understanding of the range of cultural material circulating in British culture and the ways in which these feed into the representation of the nation, and particularly of London, on the screen.
- had an opportunity to do independent research using major London-based resources such as the BFI Southbank and Mediatheque, as well as a range of museums, galleries and libraries. Students will have a clear grasp of the theoretical issues around the representation of the city and the relationship between screen images and images in other media, both official and unofficial.