|Forums > Other topics > Englisness in your films
at 06:21, 30 Mar 2007
|Englisness in your films
Dear mrs Potter,
I would lie to ave your point of view about the english national identity in films today.
What is an englis film compared to a british film? Which film is the quintessence of englishness to you?
I went to the festival of créteil and saw Mr Shepperd, i didn't have time to ask him questions...
at 17:33, 14 May 2007
For people who are Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish (or indeed Cornish) there is a huge distinction between Englishness and Britishness. 'Great Britain' or the 'United Kingdom' (how dated these names seem when you write them down....how steeped in a feudal mentality or a dream of empire) both include these other national identities. Being included under the umbrella can be a source of historical pain, given the terrible things the English have done (for example forbidding children to speak Welsh or Gaelic in schools, and so on). Worse still is when people say "England' when they mean Britain; it becomes a kind of obliteration of the true mix which makes up the British Isles. How complicated it can get. But how important naming is as a part of identity of all kinds, not just national identity.
As for English national identity, I have always resisted celebrating it too much. There has been an excess of patriotism with a nasty taste to it over the years, though I love roses, Shakespeare, irony and marmalade as much as anyone else.
As for a quintessentially English film....'The Man in the White Suit' sprang to mind, partly because it starred Alec Guinness, but of course it was in fact made by a Scot, Alexander Mackendrick. Any film by Powell/ Pressburger (such as 'A Matter of Life and Death')seemed to distill something of the national psyche, but this was in part because they were mostly written by a Hungarian (Pressburger) with astute and affectionate powers of observation of his adopted country.
In any case, taking the long view backwards, what we think of as Englishness is in fact a mixture of Celtic, Anglo/Saxon and other influences. We have always been a mongrel mix.
This is something I like very much. No illusions of 'purity' are possible, thank God.
London, where I live most of the time, has a street soundtrack of a beautiful cacaphony of languages.