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Mapping Cinematic Norths

International Interpretations in Film and Television

by Julia Dobson (Volume editor) Jonathan Rayner (Volume editor)
Edited Collection X, 300 Pages
Series: New Studies in European Cinema, Volume 20

Summary

Mapping Cinematic Norths presents an international range of research and enquiry into the significance, representation and manipulation of depictions of the ‘North’ in cinema and television. Northern landscapes, soundscapes, characters and narratives are defined and recognized as distinctive image-spaces within film and television. However, the ‘North’ is portrayed, exploited and interpreted in divergent ways by filmmakers and film audiences worldwide, and this volume sheds new light on these varying perspectives.
Bringing together the work of established and emerging academics as well as practising filmmakers, this collection offers new critical insights into the coalescence of North-ness on screen, exploring examples from Britain, Scandinavia, continental Europe, Australia and the United States. With contextual consideration and close readings, these essays investigate concepts of the North on film from generic, national, aesthetic, theoretical, institutional and archival perspectives, charting and challenging the representations and preconceptions of the idea of North-ness across cultural and cinematic heritages.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Introduction
  • Part I British Film and TV Norths
  • Archival Traces of the North in Barry Hines’ Looks and Smiles (1981) and Threads (1984)
  • Council Estates, Culture and Shameless Spaces
  • The North of England in British Wartime Film, 1941–1946
  • Controlling the Past: Nostalgia and Northern Mythology
  • Part II Generic Norths and Northern Climes
  • North and South: Lynne Ramsay’s Morvern Callar
  • Norwegian Arctic Cinema: Ecology, Temperature and the Aesthetics of Cold
  • Fighting the North in the Spaghetti West: Peter Lee Lawrence, Italian Westerns and Italian History
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Fun: One Dog’s Journey to the North
  • Part III Inter/National(ized) Norths
  • (Dis)Locations, Relocations: Representations of Northern France in Contemporary French Cinema
  • Re-Making the Northeast: Trieste in Italian Cinema and the Re-Mediation of Silenced History
  • The Cinematic Northern Territory of Australia
  • Welcome to Hollywood North, Canada: A World of Stand-Ins, Tax Breaks, Studio Expansion and Cultural Erasure/Re-Inscription
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →

Figures

← x | 1 →

JULIA DOBSON AND JONATHAN RAYNER

Introduction

North is a discursive formation […], and as such it has done and continues to do a great deal of ideological and practical work.1

The North begins inside.2

The tension between these pragmatic and poetic statements encapsulates the diversely potent vectors of Norths discussed in this volume. Norths are situated both as relative, contextualized locations and locators which can be written and read across sundry fields of cultural production, and as personal mappings that, exceeding careful notations of longitude and latitude, assert psycho-cultural and affective magnetic pulls, suggest inner absolutes and promise individualized renderings of multiple ‘true’ Norths. Norths may be construed as ends and endings, but they can begin their creation and construction anywhere.

At this beginning of the twenty-first century, the North and the construction of North-ness seem to constitute privileged sites of cultural consumption and production. As Dobson points out in her chapter on Northern France, one of the striking features of twenty-first-century North-ness is a distinct cultural valorization of the North in middle-class discourse, including preferences for ‘Scandi’ design, the fashionable adoption of extreme weather clothing for all but extreme commuting conditions and televisual and literary renditions of the ‘Nordic noir’. This suggests that the North and North-ness have been identified as a new ‘exotic’ in the face ← 1 | 2 → of the problematic power dynamics that preclude a continuing fetishization of, or discursive focus on, the global South. This conceptualization of North-ness therefore accompanies and foregrounds uncomfortable mappings of the distribution and exploitation of global resources, the dynamics of political and economic control, and the whereabouts and consequences of potential ecological disasters.

Norths can also be perceived as culturally and cinematically demarcated by exclusion as much as by exclusivity. Contributions to this volume underline how Northern landscapes, soundscapes, characters and narratives are defined and recognized as geographically, culturally, historically and cinematically distinctive image-spaces within film and television. North-ness is conceived, portrayed, identified, exploited and interpreted on sympathetic or prejudicial, consistent and divergent bases by filmmakers, film industries and film audiences worldwide. As Davidson reminds us, ‘as a descriptor of place, “North” is shifting and elusive, yet, paradoxically, it is a term that evokes a precise – even passionate – response in most people.’3 The ‘passionate’ response derives from recognition of a distinctiveness, and a distinctiveness desirous of recognition.

The medium-specific features of cinema and television, which enable manipulations of time and space, are ideally suited to the construction and reconstruction of cinematic spaces that project themselves in differently mapped relationships to real-world locations. The ever-evolving technical and creative capacities of film to represent and construct images and soundscapes constitute a powerful medium through which we think and feel about our relationship to place and space. We are constantly positioned and re-positioned through narrative, point-of-view and frame composition in relation to the landscapes, figures and plotlines associated with the Norths. The use of different technical devices (steadicam, lightweight portable cameras, drones) and production and screen formats (widescreen, spatialized sound, 3D and IMAX) supports the constantly developing capacity of the moving image to both access and construct real and virtual spaces, creating an immersive experience that is also knowingly acknowledged by ← 2 | 3 → audiences. Film does not so much exist as ‘another country’ as enable the fabrication of myriad specific, alternate territories. These hypothetical spaces are invested with mythic, nostalgic, ethnic and historic significances, and are slaved to a multitude of cultural agendas, including (as Carl Wilson’s chapter on Hollywood’s presence in Canada in this volume highlights) those of the cinematic apparatus and institution itself.

Therefore the constructions of diverse and divisive Norths by and through the conventions of moving image media are not simply placed in the service of pervasive and abiding cultural agendas, but are also the drivers and products of cinematic and televisual schemata. Norths are also understood and consumed in film through and because of their projected and propagated generic affinities. Regions to the North of Europe are, in general terms, associated with specific genre categories – with the adventure film (the Finnmark locales of Pathfinder: Nils Gaup, 1987), fantasy horror (the Norwegian landscapes of Trollhunter: Andre Ovredal, 2010), the thriller (the Scotland of Skyfall: Sam Mendes, 2012), and the newly emerging hybridized generic conventions of the Nordic noir (The Killing, Denmark, 2007–10/US, 2011–14; Wallander, Sweden, 2005–10/UK, 2009–12), while in Britain, the North is repeatedly and reductively associated with cinematic correlations of realist aesthetics and narratives and regionalized and politicized representations. The landscapes and associated iconography of these filmic genres contribute to the wider mediated presences and cultural capital of contemporary Norths, defined and delimited in omnipresent, imagistic terms.

North of everywhere

Biographical notes

Julia Dobson (Volume editor) Jonathan Rayner (Volume editor)

Julia Dobson is Reader in Contemporary French Film and Performance at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of Hélène Cixous and the Theatre: The Scene of Writing (2002) and Negotiating the Auteur: Cabrera, Masson, Lvovsky and Vernoux (2012) and an editor of Studies in French Cinema. Jonathan Rayner is Reader in Film Studies in the School of English, University of Sheffield. He is co-editor, with Graeme Harper, of Cinema and Landscape (2010) and Film Landscapes (2013) and author of Contemporary Australian Cinema (2000), The Naval War Film (2007) and The Cinema of Michael Mann (2013).

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