Q: With reference to one or two films ,discuss the ways in which films can operate as examples of national cinema. Draw on relevant academic reading in order to illustrate your answer and develop your argument.
National cinema is an important term in studying film. In this essay, we will discover the concept of national cinema through British cinema as an example. In the second part, we will illustrate Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot(2000) to discuss the ways in the film can operate of nation cinema.
National Cinema can be define as film which being produce with the national identity of the country following the aspect from culture, background and political of the particular country. (Hjort, 2000) Our focus will narrow down on the British cinema, which experience the threat from Hollywood towards their local market their intention to break down the Hollywood domination on the local market as well as the media culture pollution brought by the US film after the WWI. The three main issues which need to be overcome by the British Cinema are the production, consumption and representation of their films towards the national audiences (market). (Newland, 2010.)
There are many successful film being produce by the national film maker which had receive critical reception internationally examples such as production from Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli. They combined sex with exotic locations, casual violence and self-referential humor in the phenomenally successful James Bond series with Sean Connery in the leading role. The first film Dr. No was a sleeper hit in the UK in 1962, and the second, From Russia with Love (1963), a hit worldwide. By the time of the third film, Goldfinger(1964), the series had become a global phenomenon, reaching its commercial peak with Thunderball the following year. The revolution of national film which being brought forward by implementing a more liberated attitude to sex, capitalizing on the “swinging London” image propagated by Time magazine had broke the taboos around the portrayal of sex and nudity on screen.
The standard of film quality and blockbuster production of film had been benchmark by the Hollywood film and the genre of the type of movie produce with the element being put into the film. These were not the norm or the culture accepted by the film producer in the British. The more daring approach in including more gore and explicit scene had more appeal to the audiences and the horror movie from the America ‘ s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) had make Hammer’s vampire films seem increasingly tame and outdated, despite attempts to spice up the formula with added nudity and gore. (Martian, 2004) Although some attempts were made to broaden the range of British horror films, such as the comic adaption from Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter or the cult favorite The Wicker Man, these films had made little impact at the box office. However there are many Hollywood films with a British dimension (based on British people, stories or events) have had enormous worldwide commercial success. Six of the top seven highest-grossing films worldwide of all time have some British historical, cultural or creative dimensions: Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Harry Potter movies. The second culturally American film on the list, Star Wars at number 9, was filmed principally in the UK. (Imdb, 2010.) Adding four more Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, plus three about a Scottish ogre in British fairy tale setting (Shrek), and about two-thirds of the top twenty most commercial films, with combined cinema revenues of about $13 billion, had a substantial British dimension. (ibid.)
British influence can also be seen with the ‘English Cycle’ of Disney animated films, which include Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Dalmatians, The, The Rescuers and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (Simth, 2003)
The British cinema market is too small for the British film industry to successfully produce Hollywood-style blockbusters over a sustained period. As such, the industry has not been able to produce commercial success internationally in comparison.
The British film industry consequently has a complex and divided attitude to Hollywood. On the one hand Hollywood provides work to British directors, actors, writers, production staff and studios, enables British history and stories to be made as films, and opens up the US and world markets to a limited participation by some in the British film industry. On the other hand, the loss of control and profits, and the market requirements of the US distributors, are often seen to endanger and distort British film culture. The success from these film had clearly reflect that there is something missing in the British film because with the same resources by the Hollywood there are able to produce blockbuster which create great impact on the national and international reception.
Put more emphasis on British cinema production, British support their film industry although Hollywood has a great impact on British cinema. The UK Film Council was created in 2000 aims to develop and promote the widest possible enjoyment and understanding of cinema throughout the nations and regions of the UK. (UK Film Council, 2006). British film Institute, BBC, FilmFour etc. also is a major organization to support and fund British film. However, British film can be funds by Hollywood companies such as The Full Monty funds by Fox Searchlight due to British film have co-production and distribution deal with Hollywood studio. British government offers film tax relief of UK filming. Unfortunately, in recently, a Republican wants to reduce the tax break from 25 percents of the film production to 15 percent.(Cooper, 2010) Murphy, R. in The British cinema book concluded the cause in Britsih cinema finance support by different country:
â€¦while British cinema may depend upon international finance and audiences for its viability, this may actually strengthen its ability to probe national question, that while cinema has apparently lost its national audience in the cinemas, it may have gained a more fully national audience via television, and that while British cinema may no longer assert the myths of nation with its earlier confidence, it may nonetheless be a cinema which is more fully representative of national complexities than ever before. (Murphy, 2004)
In conclude, British cinema is an example to illustrate the national cinema in this essay, of course, there are different cinema can contribute national cinema such as French cinema and Italian cinema. The relationship between national cinema and Hollywood is a worthy discussion topic. The term of national cinema is continent developing by the social and economic change.
Billy Elliot (2000) is an example to analysis how a film to operate a concept of national cinema. Billy Elliot is a mixed genres film, it is a social drama with a strong vein of comedy. (Mahon, 2004). In terms of national cinema, Billy Elliot is a British film full of logical. It low budget film supported by BBC Films and National Lottery funds, has a British cast, is directed by British director (Stephen Daldry), editor (John Wilson), cinematographer (Brian Tufano), screenwriter (Lee Hall) and choreographer (Peter Darling). Even the music, by T Rex, the Jam and the Clash is unashamedly British. (Lister, 2000) Obvious, the film was filmed in Great Britain. Story background set in 1984, Durham. Eleven years old main character Billy struggle to be a ballet dancer whiles his family not supporting him. His father and brother are miners whom involved the historic miners’ strike. Billy continued learn ballet with his private teacher. Billy becomes a famous ballet dance after he overcomes the problem of financial and family.
Billy Elliot is an inspiring and heat-warming film with political, social, and gender issue being raised in the film. In the political part, Billy and his family is a member of Nation Union of Mineworks who involved the miner’s strike during 1984-1985 in northern England. Although screen writer Lee Hall said they “â€¦didn’t get the broader political context of the miners’ strike in -frustrating.”(Teeman, 2008.) The film distributes the identity and also chronicles the British industry history and strikes and makes the film realistic. It included several scenes depict the conflict and violence between the police and the miners such as crossing the picket and the catchword -scabs. Alan Sinfield concluded those scenes in Boys, Class and Gender:
Police with batons and riot shields are seen charging through alleys and houses, overthrowing any sense that private life is immune from the gross activity of the state. (Sinfield, 2006)
During that two year was a bitter year for miners and the middle-class, for example, the Elliot’s family not having coal for heat in the winter. Billy’s father Jackie gave up on the strike in order to finance Billy to London to further his ballet studies. The cinematography and the scene being capture had provide the audience to visualise one of the most difficult times by the people through poverty and hardship due to the economic and political unrest.
For the social part, Class, the films presents the working-class plight in England by Tory government of 1980s.(Kaplan, 2004) Again, the strike had reflect the right of working class to pursuit their welfare. Billy’s father has not been to London in his entire life. Billy and his father amaze the gorgeous architecture when they go to the Royal Ballet School. Billy Elliot also represents the acceptance and openness in England. In that time is generally accepted that ballet is not for lower class, is for girl and boy do ballet is means he is homosexual. Billy Father Jackie said “For girls, not for lads, Billy.” after he found out Billy attend the ballet class. In majority people they gendering of ballet as feminine, for boy, they do boxing, football and wrestling. Billy also repeatedly explained that he is not homosexual even he do ballet.
Gender, Billy Elliot did not put emphasis on female even the female ballet teacher plays a major impact on Billy. Billy is in close relationship with his father, brother, and his cross-dressing friend Michael. His father, brother and miners against the police in heavy industrial which represent male plat the role of maintain the family and economic pillar. His friend Michael as a homosexual, Billy accepts him and treats him as best friend. In the end of the story, Michael attends to Billy’s ballet show, he make up and transvestite with a black man who perhaps his boyfriend. Cora Kaplan described the idea of gender issue in The Death of the working-class hero:
Billy Elliot, which has a strongly marked gay subtext: to support its homo-social and gently homoerotic narrative, femininity as a negative or abject trope must be cordoned off from the film’s redefinition of masculinities, both heroic and ordinary. (Kaplan, 2004)
Billy Elliot represents the social, political, gender and class issue in British in 1980s. Of course, there are many factors lead to this film success and more British. Scenes setting, national miner’s strike is a remarkable history in British. Filming in fictional country town Everington, where is a in the real in Durham, northern England. It is one of the largest mining communities to the strike. (Mahon, 2004.) The dispute sequences between police, `scabs’ and strikes also make the film realism. Beside strike, the landscape in countryside and scenes of Billy’s house is small, simple kitchen, and crude bathroom depicts the poverty and the life standard of working-class. In the last few scene at Royal Ballet School, London, shows a city, transportation and the grand design in Britain capital in comparison with countryside. In addition, Billy Elliot simple customs also represent the poor mining community hardship in 1980s. For example, in the whole film Billy only wears one short, singlet, jeans, jacket and school uniform as his clothing. Billy’s family even cannot dress warmly and get heat in the winter. Mr. Wilkinson is ballet teacher, middle class, her casual style, messy hair and cigarettes enriched her character. The dialogue delivered in thick lower class British accents and slang. Music is an important part in the film, Billy Elliot is a story about ballet. It surprise that the music is not just included classic music like Swan Lake but also involved rock music and tap dance. The film uses 70s British rock band – T-Rex Cosmic dancer and I love to boogie. Its lyrics and style highlight Billy passion in dancing. Town called malice by Jam selected in Billy main dance sequence to shows Billy angry and ambition.
The touching, funny, and real history background story with good performance lead to Billy Elliot’s success in British and international. In Britain, it nominated six and won Best British film, best actor (Jamie Bell) and best supporting actress (Julie Walters) in British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) reward. It also nominated three Oscar. This huge success led to the stage, Billy Elliot the Musical opening on 31 March 2005 until present in London. The music is play by famous British songwriter Elton John. The musical continue the success of film while the musical won 10 Tony Awards and production in New York, and Australia.
The `British elements’ in the film which we described above, it seems Billy Elliot is a British full of reasons. Broadcaster Caroline Westbrook reviewed Billy Elliot: “Those who have lost faith in the British film industry prepare to have it restored.”(Westbrook, 2000) However, some people and academic hold a different opinion, in fact, Billy Elliot was distributed by the largest Hollywood distributor in Europe, UIP. Xan Brooks in The Guardian claims that:
Like it or not, Hollywood has shaped homegrown cinema. Billy Elliot, then, is a basic British story told an American Vernacularâ€¦Of course Luddites may argue that Billy Elliot is therefore not purely British. Except that Britain itself is not purely British any more (at least not in the high Tory sense of the film). (Brooks, 2000)