Imaging/Imagining a History of Violence: Red Road and This is England

Steven Allen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper published in a conference proceedingspeer-review


Both This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006) and Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006) utilise a combination of violence and memory (public and personal) to construct a vision of British national identity. The former is set during the Falklands War/Guerra de las Malvinas, and redraws our understanding of
skinhead subculture as a contested space, not a cohesive racist grouping. I will argue that by re-imaging/imagining Britain of the 1980s, it straddles a nostalgic gaze and a critical distance to produce parallels with contemporary Britain. The latter film takes place in the present, but engages with the central character’s mourning for her murdered husband and daughter. Her personal history is
situated within a contemporary public framework of observation: she is a CCTV operator, and the film’s visual style suggests a Britain dominated by surveillance. I will assert that although these films employ distinctive
relationships with history (one at the level of narrative setting, the other of character), they approach a comparable articulation of how re-imagining a violent past is vital for coming to terms with loss, thus suggesting a pliability of
history. In doing so though, uncomfortable relationships with the past are resolved through reconciliation based on individual rather than collective histories.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemapping Cinema, Remaking History
EditorsHilary Radner, Pam Fossen
Place of PublicationDunedin
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventRemapping Cinema, Remaking History - University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Duration: 27 Nov 200830 Nov 2008


ConferenceRemapping Cinema, Remaking History
CountryNew Zealand
Internet address


  • British Cinema
  • Film
  • Violence
  • Red Road
  • This is England
  • Shane Meadows
  • Andrea Arnold
  • Collective Memory
  • Memory
  • Trauma

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