British naval films and the documentary feature
in The naval war film
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The documentary and propagandist emphases result in distinctive national modifiers to the accepted conventions of the war film. In British wartime filmmaking, the recognition of differences across social classes, the incorporation of regional diversity in national representation and the informative worth of factual images encapsulate the judicious assimilation of documentary materials and meanings within feature film production. Naval films of the early war period adopt some facets of documentary filming, although, to inform as well as to inspire the home audience with images of the Navy's ships, crews and operations, they can also be seen to rework staples of pre-war cinema. This chapter incorporates Sergei Nolbandov's Ships With Wings, which was one of the earliest examples of wartime naval representation; similar in its upbeat propagandist conception to The Lion Has Wings. The focus of the documentary footage rests upon the aircraft and operations of the Fleet Air Arm, and especially upon the Navy's most famous aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal. Early wartime propaganda films establish the negative portrayal of U-boat crewmen as stereotypical Nazis, whose cunning and brutality are as inevitable as their defeat and death at the hands of their outraged victims. The fundamental importance of the maritime effort to the nation's survival means that the dedication of films to the Royal and Merchant navies registers more as a debt which the state owes to greater institutions and older traditions.

The naval war film

Genre, history, national cinema

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