Pape Mawade SYLLA Docteur en littérature anglaise Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Sénégal
El Hadji DABO Docteur en littérature anglaise Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Sénégal
As a rule, the two terms British and cinema do not seem to go together. François Truffaut and Hitchcock represent two types of approaches, on the one hand a conventional wisdom about British cinema and the contradictions which reveal the formal characteristics of British cinema. The British cinema conveys a realistic image in so far as actors observe the reality of the characters. It is also filmic in the way it uses a unique camera movement; theatrical as a link between the film and the theatre, both located in London. In America there is a bipolarization; Los Angeles for the film and New York for the theatre.
The present article is an attempt to disclose the repression of love and lack of sensitiveness for the middle-class and, but still representing the English, and, the interests of the middle – class. This paradox in the British cinema will be analyzed first by showing the formal contradictions of filmic æsthetics, and finally through an analysis of repression in the British films such as: Brief Encounter, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Maurice, I Know Where I am Going and Kiss of the Vampire. Ultimately these should help understand the æsthetics and symbolic aspects of British culture.
- The Formal Contradictions of Filmic Æsthetic
The British cinema is important in so far as it reveals an æsthetic and symbolic aspect. So its space is organized. These filmic devices are exemplified in the movement of the camera. As a case in point, Brief Encounter is the prototype of British cinema for some people, but seen by others as a bad prototype due to its limitations to middle-class culture. It is based on a play by Noel Coward (Still Life,1938-39) and directed by David Lean. The movie tells the story of a short-lived affair between a married woman and a married man. The two meet at a train station. Location and space play an important part in telling a story, and in this particular case, the location, a waiting room of a suburban railway station; as a result, the trains play important role in unfolding and telling the narrative. The story begins and ends at a train station. Laura Jesson, a respectable middle-class British woman, lives in an affectionate but rather dull marriage, who while sitting at home with her husband, imagines that she was confessing her love affair to him.
Laura, like many women of her class at the time, goes to a nearby town every Thursday for shopping and to the cinema for a matinée. Returning from one such excursion to Milford, while waiting in the railway station’s refreshment room, she is helped by another passenger, who solicitously removes a piece of grit from her eye. The man is Alec Harvey, an idealistic general practitioner (GP) who also works one day a week as a consultant at the local hospital. Both are in their or early forties, married and with children (although Alec’s wife Madeleine and their two sons are unseen). The two characters accidentally meet again outside the chemist shop and, then on a third meeting share lunch, and attend an afternoon performance at the Palladium Cinema. They soon realized that their innocent and casual relationship develops into something deeper, approaching infidelity.
Next, next they meet openly, until they run into friends of Laura to whom they conceal their, somewhat, guilty relationship. The second lie comes more easily, as they eventually go to a flat belonging to Stephen, a friend of Alec’s and a fellow doctor, but in the process they are interrupted by Stephen’s unexpected and judge mental return. Laura, humiliated and ashamed, runs down the back stairs and into the streets. She walks and walks, and sits on a bench for hours, smoking, until a concerned policeman encourages her to get in to avoid the cold. She arrives at the station just in time to take the last train home. The recent turn of events makes the couple realize that an affair or a future together is impossible. Understanding the temptation and not wishing to hurt their families, they agree to part. Alec has been offered a job in Johannesburg, South Africa, where his brother lives.
Their final meeting occurs in the railway station refreshment room, now seen for a second time with the poignant perspective of their story. As they await a heart-rending final parting, Dolly Messiter, a talkative acquaintance of Laura, invites herself to join them and begins chattering away, obstacles unaware to the couple’s inner misery.
As they realize that they have been robbed of the chance for a final goodbye, Alec’s train arrives. With Dolly still chattering, Alec departs without the passionate farewell for which they both longed. After shaking Dolly’s hand, he discreetly squeezes Laura on the shoulder and leaves. Laura waits for a moment, anxiously hoping that Alec will walk back into the refreshment room, but he does not. As the train is heard pulling away, Laura is galvanized by emotion and, hearing an approaching express train, suddenly dashes out to the platform. The lights of the train flash across her face as she conquers a suicidal deception. She then returns home to her family. Laura’s kind and patient husband, Fred, shows that he has noticed her distance in the past few weeks, although it is not clear if he has guessed the reason. He thanks her for coming back to him. She cries in his embrace. The message is ‶make tea not loveʺ says a French critic. British people seen, in this film, as cold fish; with their stiff-upper as a symbol of repressed sexual emotions.
British either lack emotions or repressed them. Too much realism restricts the emotions. The film is so well done as formal qualities are parts of this emotional repressiveness. Laura, tells the story in a series of flashbacks. The audience hear mostly her version of the affair with the “other man”, Alec. She tells us about her feelings and passion towards him, her self-denial of infidelity, and eventually her guilt. Both Alec and Laura share a common attraction towards one another. British film reveals also the commitment to the welfare state through the representation of the genuine psychodrama.
In the last part of Brief Encounter Laura imagines returning to the station. Everything happens in her mind but does not tell her husband about this, which shows the psychological aspect in the British cinema. Laura physically is always absent at home and in her mind she is also absent. She is lost in her reverie, recollecting moments spend with the doctor Alec whom she loves. And she wants to experience her feeling but was unable to express it because of moral restriction with the puritanism. Use of music: played clearly is a meaning of the sexual life that cannot be explained. Feelings are restrained, emotions are held.
In British culture, the ‶the unsaidʺ is part of middle – class culture. ‶The unsaidʺ is what is so overwhelming that you cannot say it. The film resorts to expressionistic devices: darkness, closing around Laura, a voice, etc., all these devices convey overwhelming felt emotions.
- Saturday Night and Sunday Morning: a Working-class Life film
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a play film based upon Sillitoe’s eponym novel has been much praised for the authenticity of its dialogue, its realistic portrayal of working-class life. The film was first produced in 1960. Its melodramatic, working-class character is featured. The British cinema treats the working class seriously which is very rare in Britain. The film sees through the eye of a working-class character. It uses the traditional pattern of Brief Encounter.
Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning tells the story of Arthur Seaton, a young British man who spends his days doing repetitive work in a bicycle factory in Nottingham and dreaming about escaping the monotony of his life. He escapes on weekends, when he drinks, stirs up trouble, and has passionate sex with women, including two sisters, both of whom are married. Brenda, one of the women, is the wife of Arthur’s friend, and he nearly catches them several times, but they manage to escape discovery. Brenda soon becomes pregnant with Arthur’s child, however, and after a lot of heartache and drama she self-induces an abortion with hot water and gin.
The opening shot frames Arthur as traditionally working class, shirt sleeves rolled up and working, voicing his combative attitude to authority and his determination not to be ground down. Doreen’s new council house, with its modern furnishings, is seen as an unfriendly and repressive place set against the homely welcome of Arthur’s traditional terraced home, reflecting the distrust of middle-class aspirations. Arthur’s scathing comments that television produces people who are ‘dead from the neck down’ is a recurring motif found in most of British cinema.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning pushes beyond this fixed ideological model to present a more ambivalent view. Jack, stayed on his motorbike, seems more old-fashioned than Arthur on his pushbike; in the club, the younger generation listens to their pop music and the older ones enjoy their sing-song: neither group is held up as more desirable than the other. This is different from the clear privileging of the rich brass band concert over the television quiz show in A Kind of Loving (John Schlesinger, 1962). Even the final sequence, where Arthur throws a stone at the modern housing development and expresses his preference for an older house, finishes with a resigned acceptance that he and Doreen may live there. Moreover, several times in the film, Arthur himself expresses disdain for ‘the good old days’. While this is framed within an awareness of how hard those times were, there is no nostalgic admiration for the people who lived through them.
The seminal text setting the agenda for intellectual debate about working-class identity was Richard Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy (1957). Hoggart contrasts the ‘good’ authentic working-class culture of the past with the ‘shiny barbarism’ of the modern consumer culture he sees as destroying it. Most of the ‘new wave’ films produce representations of working-class life premised on this binary opposition. Sillitoe read Hoggart after writing Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but agreed that his novel ‘pointed out more or less the same thing’ (Hill 1986: 203).
Like the ‘angry young men’ of the time, Arthur’s anger is real but its focus remains unclear. The film gives a real sense of Arthur’s unhappiness with his situation, but is less clear about why he feels like this or what the solution may be. Arthur articulates this crisis of identity in juxtaposition with searching shots of his face in the mirror: ‘I’m me and nobody else. Whatever people say I am that’s what I’m not. God knows what I am’. To this extent the film is a more provocative and searching exploration of its time than some of the other ‘kitchen sink’ films which present a more apparently coherent picture of what ‘working class’ might mean.
From the perspective of the 1960’s, it seemed conceivable that the working class as it had been was an endangered species, and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning reflects these feelings of uncertainty, confusion and social paranoia.
- Maurice: an overwhelming Gay film
The repression in the British cinema is also visible in Maurice, a novel by E. M. Forster, written during 1913/14, but published posthumously in 1971, is the story of a young middle-class man searching for an own identity within a society which denies his desire for love to a person of the same sex. With the plot starting just before the protagonist’s 15th birthday the reader follows Maurice’s life through public school and his deceased father’s stock broking firm, Hill and Hall. Forster omits the childhood of – and by that the influences of society on – Maurice Hall. The reader only learns about his early childhood, that he and his sisters Ada and Kitty were brought up by their widowed mother, where he picked up his gay intonation.
Maurice is depicted as an ordinary man. That makes it easier for him to disguise as ’normal‘ (i.e. heterosexual) person. Successively he experiences a profound emotional and sexual awakening. His first homosexual relation to Clive Durham at Cambridge breaks up when Clive decides to marry. Later on, Maurice thinks about overcoming his sexual desires but fails falling in love with Alec Scudder, the gamekeeper on Clive’s country estate. The novel ends happily. Forster wrote that although the happy end was not plausible, he had not wanted to let the novel end disastrous.
Maurice is a plea for emotional and sexual honesty, and it criticizes the repressive attitudes of British society. Aware that the publication of that novel would cause a furore, Forster prepared it for posthumous publication adding the line ‚Publishable – but worth it?‘ to the cover of the manuscript. Scenes inside Cambridge are moody, close and oppressive. Outdoors, the characters are no longer contrived and stifled. When the two worlds collide, one or another character is inevitably looking out of (or climbing in through) a window. As a homosexual film, illicit sexuality, Maurice explores the appeal but also the cheeks and obstacles is a classic alternative history of British films.
The repression in the British cinema could be understood in so far as, in the late Victorian and early Edwardian England, homosexuality was considered as an illness. The deviant act was condemned, not only by the religious value that put a moral standard in the society, but also by the political condition in England. There was a law which prohibited men to perform the act. The British society of that time also viewed homosexuality in a very negative way. Although deep inside, in the film Maurice acknowledges his same-sex feelings, unfortunately, due to the fact that it is the worst crime in England at that time, Maurice cannot express himself and suppresses it, which leads him to a state of depression. So the fact that Maurice’s behavioral problems keep hiding his sexual feelings from himself and others, and continue to suffer depression is a patent example of repression.
Edwardian England was an era when the notion of sexuality was something taboo to be discussed publicly and at that time homosexuality was condemned and punishable by law. For the young Maurice, the societal attitudes regarding his sexual orientation directly affect the way he perceives himself. In the pre-coming out and coming out stages, Maurice suffers from some mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. The negative perceptions from the society become the primary reason for Maurice to develop these mental illnesses. If he received positive social attitudes, it would bring very important aspect in affecting his positive sexual identity. Ultimately, for Maurice, he does not receive such respond from his society, putting him in a low mood and making him develop a negative self-concept.
From the above discussion, it is clear that Maurice depicts the phenomenon of homosexuality in Edwardian England, a place where this notion was once considered taboo. It portrays the issue of homosexual identity development throughout the life experience of Maurice Hall, a middle-class gentleman who tries to live with his own sexual orientation. The intense pressure from the society and the existing law creates a disturbance on his identity. He is trapped between the middle-class social expectation and the existing law which condemns gross indecency. Thus, Forster’s work adapted in cinema gives the person who watches it, a picture of a homosexual character living in a strict society, of how it felt then to be a homosexual in England, of his struggle in accepting and dealing with his own sexuality, as well as various consequences ready to fall upon him if public know about his “unnatural” condition. This inner and outside repression is deconstructed by the British cinema.
- I Know Where I am Going: the Repression of Desires
I Know Where I’m Going, a 1945 romance film by the British-based filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and its stars, Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey, and features Pamela Brown and Finlay Currie, is another film which shows the repression in the British cinema.
Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) is a 25-year-old middle-class Englishwoman with an ambitious, independent spirit. She knows where she’s going, or at least she thinks she does. She travels from her home in Manchester to the Hebrides to marry Sir Robert Bellinger, a wealthy, much older industrialist, on the (fictitious) Isle of Kiloran. When bad weather postpones the final step of her journey (the boat trip to Kiloran), she is forced to wait it out on the Isle of Mull, among a community of people whose values are quite different from hers. There she meets Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey), a naval officer trying to go home to Kiloran. They are sheltered for the night in the nearby home of Torquil’s friend, Catriona Potts (Pamela Brown).
The next day, on their way to catch a bus to Tobermory to find a telephone, they come upon the ruins of Moy Castle. Joan wants to take a look inside, but Torquil refuses to go in. When she reminds him that the terrible curse associated with it only applies to the laird of Kiloran, Torquil introduces himself: he is the laird, and Bellinger has only leased his island. On the bus the locals tell many disparaging tales about Bellinger. At the coastguard station in Tobermory they are able to contact Bellinger on Kiloran. They stay in separate rooms at the Western Isles Hotel in Tobermory and eat at separate tables to avert gossip. As the bad weather worsens into a full-scale gale, Torquil spends more time with Joan, who becomes increasingly torn between her ambition and her growing attraction to him. Joan moves out of the hotel into a castle on the island owned by a friend of her fiancé.
The Castle may refer to the Gothic theme where it represents symbolically the psyche and the hidden part of human consciousness where repressed desires are kept. Patrick Day gives a similar interpretation of this fact in these words: ‘‘The Gothic arises out of the immediate needs of the reading public to . . . articulate and define the turbulence of their psychic existence. We may see Freud as the intellectual counterpart of this process” (Day 1985: 179). I Know Where I’m Going is an example of the turbulence that the characters are experienced. The repressed desire or feelings that cannot be expressed is the consequence of this repression in the film. Joan and Torquil trying to find a shelter in the castle is a perfect illustration of the repression.
From there they go to Achnacroish, where Joan is surprised to re-encounter Torquil, who feigns not to know her in the presence of others. The pipers at the ceilidh are there by default as they are also trapped in the way to Kiloran and were to play at Joan’s wedding. Joan suggests to Catriona that she could sell her property to get money. Catriona says, „money isn’t everything“.
Desperate to salvage her carefully laid plans, Joan tries to persuade Ruairidh Mhór (Finlay Currie) to take her to Kiloran immediately, but he knows that wheather conditions are far too dangerous. Joan manages to bribe young Kenny (Murdo Morrison) into attempting it by offering him £20: enough money to buy a half-share in Ruairidh’s boat and marry Ruairidh’s daughter Bridie (Margot Fitzsimons). Torquil learns of the scheme and tries to talk Joan out of it, but she is adamant. After Joan has gone down to the boat, Catriona tells MacNeil that Joan is actually running away from him. He races to the quayside and invites himself aboard. Joan gets seasick. En route, the boat’s engine is flooded and they are nearly caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool, but Torquil is able to restart the motor just in time and they return safely to Mull.
At last the weather clears. Joan asks Torquil for a parting kiss before they go their separate ways. Torquil enters Moy Castle, and the curse takes effect almost immediately. Centuries earlier, Torquil’s ancestor had stormed the castle to capture his unfaithful wife and her lover. He had them bound together and cast into a water-filled dungeon with only a small stone to stand on. When their strength gave out, they dragged each other into the water, but not before she placed a curse on the lairds of Kiloran. From the battlements, Torquil sees Joan, accompanied by three bagpipers, marching resolutely toward him. They meet in the castle, and embrace. We’re told the curse: if a MacNeil of Kiloran dares step over the threshold of Moy, he shall be chained to a woman to the end of his days, „and will die in his chains“.Torquil and Joan walk away together along the lane arm in arm. I Know Where I’m Going is sung as the end.
The presence of music is another important aspect of British cinema in so far as what makes the film so attractive to audiences are the use of the local folk music and folklore. In how many other scenes in a film does the romantic lead profess his love for a woman by quoting a Scottish folk song? Whilst Joan and Torquil watch the local community enjoying themselves at a Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-Lee, a local dance), to celebrate a sixtieth wedding anniversary, Torquil quotes a verse from the song that the pipers are playing, “My Nut Brown Maiden”. The film also hinges on superstition for part of its poetry. One of the key images is an old Scottish castle that is supposed to have a curse on any member of the sailor’s family. The notion of unknown or invisible forces fits in very well and naturally in this film. The film is asking you to believe in superstition the way you would believe in true love as stated by Clark: “When life is fierce and uncertain the imagination craves for classical repose. But as society becomes tranquil, the imagination is starved of action” (1950:63).
- Kiss of a Vampire: a Wrecked Honeymoon
Kiss of the Vampire, a 1963 British vampire film made by the film studio Hammer Film Productions. The film was directed by Don Sharp and was written by producer Anthony Hinds, credited under his writing pseudonym John Elderm, has also gothic resonance to the extent that in gothic literature, the characters are in bad mood, they feel a certain restriction towards themselves, the society and their environment. For that reason, they are at a certain time of the plot, recluse in themselves or in places such as castle which is nothing but the expression of the repression they are undergoing, in Kiss of the Vampire, a Gothic British film featuring a young British couple on a honeymoon trip in East Europe.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the just-married couple Gerald Harcourt (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel) run out of gas while driving in Germany in a honeymoon trip. They have to stop for the night at a Bed and Breakfast, and they are invited to dinner at the castle of the prominent Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman), where they are introduced to his family. They are invited to go to a party in the castle in the weekend and they accept the invitation. Gerard and Marianne go to the party and Marianne vanishes. Gerard asks for help to the local Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) and learns that Dr. Ravna is the leader of a vampire cult that had abducted his wife.
Here, as in the Gothic tradition, normality is dreary. The film emphasizes, the importance of pleasure, the right to pleasure. Use of dense intense color which is unusual in British Film and dinner interrupted by a vampire are many examples which shows the British cultural context. The vampire and bats are used in this product to show that the film is a horror film which involves the mythical creature and the main character. Women in the era of which this film was made (1963) were portrayed as weaker and vulnerable. It shows women as being vulnerable and weak, they seem almost powerless to the protagonist, they are also young this shows that they are also more vulnerable.
The protagonist is a white young male, this stereotypes men as being strong, especially in their younger age and that they are more dominant than women, at the time and more feared. As in gothic fiction, the presence of horror and terror are dominant in the film. The bats in the poster represent the vampire as vampires turn into bats, it also shows that the bats are evil creatures as they attack the women. Even the setting reveals the horror and terror: it is set in the night, which symbolizes a more eerie scene, and shows that the bats come out of the night and turn into vampires to attack the couple.
The use of color, e.g. the red on the V of vampire shows how the vampire sucks blood showing it is a horror film. The bats are also black which shows they are evil and mysterious. Secondary image: is a castle in the background. The mystery could be seen in the women’s dress codes is short, outgoing and revealing to grab attention of men. The protagonist is in all black with bold red on a back gelled hair, with sharp teeth to show he’s a vampire. The gesture code is women as being vulnerable and afraid, as their body language shows them cowering and being afraid.
The Gesture code of the vampire, is mysterious as he is almost creeping up on the women. The Vampire shows it’s a horror as it is mythical evil creature, the dark background also portrays it as horror film as it is mysterious and eerie. The blood also shows us it is a horror. The film is referred to as a dystopian film by some critics; dystopian relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad. Kiss of the Vampire is a dystopian as it is an unpleasant image as people are pictured being killed, and suffering.
This article has revealed the formal contradiction of filmic æsthetics characterized by symbolic aspects in the British cinema. The lack of emotion and the repression of feelings are seen in Brief Encounter. The constant formal repressiveness that characters are undergoing is a typical aspect of British cinema. The analysis of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning discloses a realistic portrayal of working-class life by reflecting a crisis of identity which is the result of repressed emotions too. Maurice also, is a plea for emotional and sexual honesty, and it criticizes the repressive attitudes of British society. I Know Where I am Going is another example of the turbulence that the characters are experiencing. The repressed desire common to the gothic is illustrated in this film. The Kiss of the Vampire a horror film showing mythical evil creature, with the dark background, portrays it as Gothic film as it is mysterious and eerie.
So, in the light of all these analyses, we can say that British cinema is similar to what Varma explains, that is to say, the films like the novel ‶are characterized by an awestruck apprehension of Divine immanence penetrating diurnal realityʺ (1966: 211). The British cinema is very formal; it cannot depart from the theatre. Thus, the link between cinema and theatre is a real fact. The cinema unveils a stream of consciousness and is a commitment to the Welfare State too. Music in the cinema plays an important role in the sense that, it is the melody which expresses repressed and controlled emotion but, at the same time displays what is left ‶unsaidʺ to paraphrase T.S. Eliot as illustrated by Shakespeare’s character Iago in Othello (1622) who always leaves the words unsaid.
 See Jean Welsh, 2019, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Film) – Summary – Analysis
 Essay: Da Silva, Stephen. „Transvaluing Immaturity: Reverse Discourses of Male Homosexuality in E.M. Forster’s Posthumously Published Fiction.“ Wayne State University Press, 1998. findarticles.com. 1998.
 See The definitive guide to Britain’s film and TV history,1987, Maurice, Courtesy of Merchant Ivory Productions Ltd.
 See Andy Saputro, thesis, 2015, ‘’Homosexual Identity Development as Reflected in E. M. Forster’s Maurice: a Psychological Study’’.
 See Paule Byrne, 2005,“Real” vs. “Reel” Magic: An Appreciation of I Know Where I’m Going! https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2005/cteq/i_know_where/ consulted 05/12/2020.
 See Michael Day’ article, 2017, ‶kiss of the vampire analysis’’, https://www.slideshare.net/MichaelDaly94/kiss-of-the-vampire consulted the 05/12/2020.
 See Michael Day’ article, 2017, ‶kiss of the vampire analysis’’
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