Representations of war and rurality in British and American film
Rachel Woodward and Patricia Winter
This chapter looks at the use of representations of the rural to explore how the cinematic countryside functions in war films. War films in British and US cinema are riddled with rural representations, used as scenic devices for narrative and plot purposes and as metaphors for broader arguments and anxieties about national identity and the morality of armed conflict. The chapter discusses three types of representation; the rural as hostile territory; the rural as a legitimate space for national defence; and the rural as a space in which anxieties about armed conflict can be played out. It concludes with the observation that the connection between warfare and the rural is being destabilised, in the age of 'postmodern' war and the Revolution in Military Affairs. The symbolism of landscape is overwhelming in Southern Comfort, an allegorical film which transposes the American military experience in Vietnam to the Louisiana swamps.
Staging an encounter between cinema and countryside is to invoke a rich and diverse spatial imagery. This book explores the reciprocal relationship between film and the rural: how film makes rural and rural makes film. Part I of the book explores the idea of the nationhood and relatedly, how cinematic countrysides frame the occupancy and experience of border zones. It covers representations of the Australian landscape and the spatial imagery behind the 'inculcation of political ideology' of North Korean films. European 'films of voyage' are a cinematic tradition that articulates representations of the countryside with questions of boundaries and cultural diversity. The 'pagan' landscape of British cinema and the American and British war films are also discussed. Part II focuses on the role that countrysides play in mediating national self-image through globalising systems of cinematic production. Films such as The Local Hero and The Lord of the Rings, the latter in the context of New Zealand as a shooting location, are discussed. The third part of the book focuses on two key markers of social identity and difference - 'childhood' and 'masculinity' - which serve to amplify how embodied identities come to inflect the idea of rural space. A family's relocation to the countryside from the city serves to emphasise that they are isolated from the moral structures that might contain their deviant behaviour. Part IV of the book deals with, inter alia, the Amber Film and Photography Collective, and amateur films on the former coalfields of Durham.