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British Rural Landscapes on Film$
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Paul Newland

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719091575

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719091575.001.0001

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Silent landscapes: rural settings, national identity and British silent cinema

Silent landscapes: rural settings, national identity and British silent cinema

(p.24) 1 Silent landscapes: rural settings, national identity and British silent cinema
British Rural Landscapes on Film

Andrew Higson

Manchester University Press

From Hepworth’s scenics in the late 1890s and early 1900s to the heritage films of the last couple of decades, the representation of a particular version of traditional, rural England has been central to the articulation of national identity in British films. It is perhaps worth remembering too that 1895 saw not only the first public performances of films, but also the foundation of the National Trust, known at the time as the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty. This chapter offers some reflections on the use of rural landscapes in British films of the silent period, and the ways in which those films and their landscapes were promoted and taken up in contemporary critical debate. Inevitably, this will touch on the role of landscape in articulating national identity–and on the centrality of the concept of the picturesque in the film culture of the period. It will also become clear that in contemporary critical debate picturesque Englishness is very often seen as synonymous with high quality photography. I will draw upon examples from the late 1890s to the late 1920s, and from fiction and non-fiction films alike.

Keywords:   British, Rural, Landscape, Silent cinema, Cecil Hepworth, Scenics, Picturesque, British national identity, Englishness

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