Outstanding British film – probably a period piece

I’m sure I’m not the only person to see the BAFTA nominations for the award ‘Outstanding British film’ and wonder why there isn’t a single film that tells a contemporary story played out in a contemporary setting. Of course, ‘Under the skin’ was filmed in the ‘real’ streets of 21st century Glasgow with some of the shots attempting to catch unscripted interactions with hidden cameras, but the film is essentially a science fiction film.

The nearest to contemporary is the family film ‘Paddington’ which gives us a deliberately sugar-coated London of an ill-defined time period. In the film there are plenty of visual signifiers for the 21st century, but it is purposely unreal, a fairy tale version of London – it is after all a family film.

The other four films are all period pieces and no doubt all worthy of their nomination in the category ‘Outstanding British film’. Of course, the production of culture, and that obviously includes film-making, always tells us something about the time in which it is created and a ‘period’ film is no different. It just disheartens me as a film fan that the best British film this year will probably be one that, whatever its outstanding contribution, compounds the idea of Britain being the heritage isles forever looking backwards through mostly rose-tinted glasses.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

4 thoughts on “Outstanding British film – probably a period piece”

  1. It’s an interesting observation that you make there. It’s true that many of this year’s films have been period pieces but they all still have an important story to tell. The Imitation Game is excellent for example. Perhaps what is happening is that all the great screenwriting in a contemporary setting is happening on TV. Everyone seems to be talking about Broadchurch at the moment, which I haven’t actually seen.

    1. I certainly agree with you that with some huge TV successes in the recent past that television rather than film appears to be becoming the first port of call for outstanding creative talent. I’m not sure about Broadchurch – first series was intense and felt genuine within its own parameters, however, after a couple of episodes of series two I’m not convinced at the moment, we’ll see!

  2. Sometimes I think that films, books, etc., that are set in the past, are pleasing and complete just for that reason – the time is past, there is no tension about what kind of world the things in the story are happening in – we know, because it is past. And it is therefore already contained in a framework.

    I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I do know this is why I often feel much more comfortable watching movies and shows from my past. I often don’t feel I even fit or know what is going on in today’s world. Honestly that’s because I have many fewer years left ahead of me than behind – so I’m becoming more invested in the past than I was.

    So maybe moviemakers are doing the same thing? Moviegoers?

    You have made me think some interesting thoughts!

    1. There are plenty of positive responses to work that is framed within the past and I think it is quite usual as people get older they find they are more interested in history and the past than when they were younger. Perhaps they have a little more time to reflect when the pressure to be always ‘doing’ is less intense. I just think that there is also a place for film makers to tackle our human stories within a contemporary framework too. Excellent films can appeal across the generations and even enlighten and inform too. Hopefully a good film like a good book can offer us a vicarious experience.

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