The figure (and disfigurement) in the landscape
The Go-Between’s picturesque
in British rural landscapes on film
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The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1971) emphasises connections between the body and the country estate. These links are brutal: the estate’s grounds have been landscaped and its outlying fields are cultivated, but they in turn seem to affect a figure in the landscape. The protagonist Leo emerges as a new, human incarnation of the genius loci of the picturesque tradition: he performs within the landscape, while he himself is branded by it. Attempting to make sense of how he has been traumatised, Leo struggles with the aesthetic mystification that cloaks the estate’s power relations. In order to contextualise The Go-Between’s complex landscaping, this chapter combines close analysis with cross-disciplinary landscape history. It traces the film’s roots from the emergence of a new discourse about the picturesque in the 1920s, through the psychogeography of L.P. Hartley’s original novel, to Losey’s pioneering approach to filming a country estate for The Gypsy and the Gentleman (1958). It considers how this approach was developed for The Go-Between, which set a precedent for the representation of estates on screen. The chapter ultimately points to parallels between The Go-Between and the revisionist landscape historiography that rose to prominence during the 1970s.

Editor: Paul Newland

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