Tom Ryall
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Rural imagery in Second World War British cinema
in British rural landscapes on film
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This chapter considers the ways in which British/English films about the Second World War, especially those focused on the home front, have deployed the landscape imagery as an iconographic element of a discourse invariably bound up with issues of national identity. The Lion Has Wings, In Which We Serve, Millions Like Us, A Canterbury Tale, The Demi-Paradise, Went the Day Well? and The Gentle Sex, all contain rural images – countryside, landscapes, villages, cottages. Such images sometimes feature as intermittent and peripheral sequences in films largely set in urban or other contexts as in Millions Like Us and The Gentle Sex; in contrast, however, pastoral imagery is central to films such as A Canterbury Tale and Went the Day Well? This chapter identifies instances of landscape imagery in films dealing with the wartime home front experience and relate them to the broad cultural significance of rural life to the British/English sensibility. The perception of the countryside altered during the war due to ‘the transformation of agriculture’ and ‘the evacuation of city children and mothers’ (David Matless) and one would expect some reflection on this in the cinema as well as in other cultural forms (posters, paintings, photographs).

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