How Britain was represented in theFocus films
The three focus films we watched all portrayed a much more realistic view of Britain than a lot of previous films which seem to convey a chocolate box image of Britain in order to appeal to the American Market. Our three focus films were ‘Trainspotting’, ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Brassed Off’. All of which seemed to represent Britain as a nation in turmoil or this at least seemed to be the case for the working class. The films addressed real problems in Britain for working class men, such as the mines being shut down in ‘Brassed Off’ and the steel mills closing in ‘The Full Monty’.
Each of the films seem to have some sort of political message in them, ‘Brassed Off’ seems to be extremely anti conservative and condemning of ‘Thatcherism’. The film is largely based around the pit closures, however, it a part of the storyline will still appeal to the American market with the chocolate box view of Britain, which follows the rise of an orchestra. This area of the story is one that you would normally consider with the upper-classes; however the majority of the members of the orchestra are working class miners on the verge of losing their jobs.
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The Full Monty’ also deals with ‘Thatcherism’, in particular the privatisation of the British steel industry, which leads to the closure of the steel mill that the characters worked at. Britain is represented in the films as it is going through changes that no one living in it seems to agree with, this suggests that the nation is on the verge of a revolt. This would be a massive shock to the international audience, as they would not be used to seeing Britain represented in this way.
Looking at ‘Trainspotting’, the only one of the films that is set mainly outside of England, we again see a largely pessimistic view of Britain. This time however, it seems to be focused more on Scotland than the rest of Britain. The view is summed up in the scene where ‘Renton’ (Ewan McGregor) makes a speech about being Scottish and the, in his words, ‘sorry state of affairs’ that the country is in. The main points in his speech are about how the country has no control over its fate as it is being governed by the English.
Also that no one in the country seems to understand the counties history, and while the country may look nice and have a history of national heritage, it doesn’t really count for anything. This is a direct contrast to the ideology of ‘Brassed Off’, which suggests that heritage is something to be proud of and is worth fighting for. Renton also touches on the huge drug problem in Scotland; this representation may also come as a shock to the American audience as drugs aren’t really something that the Americans associate with Britain and Merry Old England, which is the setting of the drug deals that happens later on in the film.
The representation from the scene with Renton’s speech would suggest that there are a lot of problems with modern Britain, it also seems to suggest that the way the nation is run and the history of it is confusing and contains a lot of grey areas, which is summed up by the overcast sky and mist that surrounds our characters during the scene. As a summary to the original question, I would say that the three films give mixed representations of Britain. They all seem to have disparaging views of the way the nation is run.
All of the films seem to show the working class Britons as unsuccessful, in all of the films all of the leading male characters are either out of work or on the verge of being out of work. The films give an accurate view of the way that British industries are going, at least in my opinion. This can be seen in ‘The Full Monty’ where the steel industry seems to be at a shambles, we see the same thing in ‘Brassed Off’ with the mines, so the films seem to be working their way through the collapsing British industries.
I think that the message the films are sending is that British industries are collapsing, if this was the message then you have to agree with them, the films could have very easily be based on the British car industry as now, with the imminent collapse of ‘MG Rover’ , we are soon to be without any British owned car manufacturing companies. This reflects what Renton was saying in his speech about Scotland having no heritage, as the way our industries are going; we too will have no heritage.
This may be the reason why films like the focus films are being made as appose to the British films of yesteryear. As when the chocolate box films were being made on a huge scale, British industries seemed to be enjoying a fair degree of success. However, now that are industries are dying off, our film making is reflecting this and I think this is why the change has come about in the way some of the more recent films seem to represent Britain.