Changing Representations of the Second World War in British Post-War Cinema 1946-1960
thesisposted on 20.02.2018, 11:25 authored by Andrew James Moule
Post-war British films featuring the Second World War are of considerable cultural significance, their number and enduring popularity evidence of a long-lasting pre-occupation with the war among cinema-goers. Furthermore, an analysis of representation of the war, changes in these representation and consideration of which types of representation proved popular or unpopular, can throw light on the British people’s attitudes towards the conflict and changes in such attitudes over time. However, despite their significance these films have received relatively little scholarly attention, leaving largely unchallenged a number of assertions: that representations of the war are confined to a homogenous group of combat-oriented films that began no earlier than 1950; that their popularity was evidence of escapist nostalgia and that British cinema failed both to depict the brutality of war and to explore its ethical dimensions. This study challenges these assumptions. Discussing just over 100 films, it argues that representations of the war changed noticeably during the period 1946-1960 with a wide range of war and war-related themes being explored, something that becomes clearly apparent when this period is divided into three distinct periods. Furthermore, evidence of films’ popularity is used to support the assertion that assumptions of homogeneity spring from a focus on commercially-successful films. It further argues that an analysis of films from the first half of the 1950s reveals a dominant theme of tribute rather than escapist nostalgia and that there is plentiful evidence from the second half of the 1950s of films depicting the brutality of war and exploring its ethical dimensions.