Andrew Higson
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‘Medievalism’, the period film and the British past in contemporary cinema
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This chapter examines the various modes of film practice adopted for representing the Middle Ages, from the epic historical adventure film to low-budget art-house fare. It suggests that film-makers frequently blur the boundaries between different historical periods, and that there is something specific about the way the premodern past is represented as dangerous and dirty. The chapter compares representations of the medieval with representations of the more modern past, arguing that the former tend to adopt a more populist and masculine appeal than the numerous middle-brow costume dramas set in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It considers the ways in which the films engage with questions of national identity and national cinema, in an era in which film production is increasingly transnational. The chapter focuses on films released since 1980 - a little over fifty of which have offered some version of the British medieval past.

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