Interior lives
Imagining private visions of home
in Picturing home
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This chapter considers the construction of domestic life onscreen in terms of ideas concerning psychological wellbeing in the home. The interwar development of suburbia saw an increased interest in studies of the psyche: prominent among these was the diagnosis of ‘suburban neurosis’. At this time, melodramatic stories accompanied by dramatic illustrations of domestic life were published in women’s magazines such as Modern Woman, providing a popular way of addressing the psychological significance of home. Charting subjective experiences, these stories destabilised the concept of home as comfortable and constant; instead, they conveyed insecurity, instability and a desire for escape. Bringing together an exploration of women’s magazines in the interwar years with close analysis of two 1940s films, this chapter focuses on the private visions of housewife and mother Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) in Brief Encounter, (David Lean, 1945) and backroom scientist Sammy Rice (David Farrar) in his London flat in The Small Back Room (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1949). It contends that these two films re-imagined a mode of address balancing melodrama and modernism, which was used in the 1930s to interrogate the instabilities of the modern home, thus illuminating a different side to domestic life and its ‘’.

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