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Using A Film Of Your Choice To Illustrate Your Arguments, Explore The Relation Between Visual Representation And National Identity

1404 words - 6 pages

Having seen the film 'Brave Heart' by Mel Gibson, I was greatly inspired to discuss the issues brought up by Anthony Smith in his essay entitled 'Cinema, art and national identity' in the light of this film. Smith's argument is that in paintings, historical views of a nation convey a variety of meanings and emotions when put within a frame. Film too performs this task however allowing the expansion of boundaries within which these meanings and emotions could be conveyed. Smith also divides the qualities of national identity within an artistic production, in this case film. As I discussed these divisions I cited examples from the film by Mel Gibson to clarify my argument.In the section ...view middle of the document...

The artist's task, he continues, is to rediscover pre-existing collective myths, symbols values, memories and traditions of the people in order to tap into the strong emotions, morals and shared memories of the masses. Therefore historical films aim at precisely this.In his next section 'Public moralities of national heroism.', Smith discusses how visual representations not only portray moral and symbolic themes, but are also very expressive and aesthetic. Citing examples from the classical paintings 'Exempla virtutis' which through their didactic value preach virtues of courage and chastity, he states that 'the artist has chosen a crucial moment of psychological tension in which a very public moral choice is realized through a life like portrayal of the protagonist's drama.' Other themes which frequently featured in the paintings of the late 18th century were oath taking, moral resolve and heroic self-sacrifice. All these emotions resurfaced over a century later in a wide range of cinematic images. Smith argues that these images are firmly planted in the tradition initiated by the history painters of this period.In his most important section of his essay entitled 'Cultivating ethnic atmosphere', Anthony Smith explains how film captures certain aspects of national identity which painting and sculpture could not. Such aspects provide the viewer with a greater depth of emotions by portraying all the environmental grandeur and power and also by the means of music. Therefore films create what he calls an 'ethnic atmosphere.' He then continues by breaking down this concept into a number of dimensions, which include: character development, historical reconstruction, pictorial tableaux, accessories, ethnoscape and the 'people'. Smith discusses each one in turn giving examples mostly of Eisenstien's films. For the purpose of this assignment I shall explain each one of these aspects in the light of the film 'Brave Heart' directed by Mel Gibson.Character Development: The protagonist of the film William Wallace is introduced as a young boy living in a hut in the highlands with his father and brother. He witnesses a terrible sight when walking through the lands, of Scottish men, women and children all hanged in one of the huts by the British, during a time when supposedly peace agreements were being made between England and Scotland. Wallace is gravely horrified by this and the sight of all the dead people remained imprinted in his memory. After this he learns about the death of his father and brother, who were killed in a battle against the English. He is then taken under the wing of his uncle and escorted away from his homeland to tour Europe where he received an education. Many years after this, he returns to Scotland and marries. His wife is then taken away and killed by the English and from then on he engaged in a brutal battle against England, encouraging all Scotsmen to fight for their freedom. At the end of the film he is captured by his enemy and...

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