Thursday, 13 August 2009

A BRITT-ish view on British film - on British TV

British films are rare on British TV. Foreign films even more so - unless you count the ones from Hollywood Country. I find that very sad.

This might come as a surprise to readers of this blog who live in Sweden - a country whose television has a long tradition of showing British productions. We were brought up on Upstairs & Downstairs, the Onedin Line, Family At War, the Forsyth Saga and Morse....
The very concepts of 'having a cup of tea' or 'Sunday roast' in Swedes' minds probably stem from these TV series.
Many a great British comedy has been shipped across the North Sea and welcomed with open arms by a Swedish audience who know how to appreciate British humour. We even used to have our homegrown versions of Steptoe & Son and Good Old Days - courtesy Gothenburg TV! This, on the other hand, might surprise my British readers.

So, when moving to the UK, I did expect a somewhat greater choice of excellent dramas and films, actually made in Blighty. Having been a keen cineaste in my home town and a frequent Gothenburg Film festival visitor, my hopes were up there - pretty high. But God, was I disappointed. Part from a few excellent dramas now and then and the odd film - shown at silly o'clock in the night - not an awful lot, actually!

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of brilliant productions around. Intelligent, inspirational and hard working film makers make excellent films. It is just that, they do not seem to get much airtime. Plus, if you don't belong to an independent film association or read about films - you will never know they exist. I am not an expert on the British film market, I can only guess it has to do with poor funding and lack of opportunities, of film producers wanting to make film which do not 'fit the pattern'.

I love a good film - preferably shown in a proper, old cinema. But I want to be surprised, not figuring out the plot already after the first few minutes. I want to be blown away by an incredible story which takes me to places I never have seen. Or go to places I do know well, but which are portrayed in a new light. The feeling of not being able to leave the armchair, because you just have to see what happens next... or because the footage is simply mind-blowing. I want a film that makes me laugh and cry, makes me angry, makes me fall in love. That's what I want. Is that asking too much?

I don't want to predict that the end is nigh by the time you start hearing the helicopters and see the blue lights. You know, just after the moment where the hero and heroine have finished their run in the obligatory tunnel, chased by a ball of fire. I don't want to be able to figure out that the blonde pony-tail woman, who started off in a beige cardigan and reading glasses, will end up running all slow-motioned... beside our hero - in a white, wet vest. This is not just predictable - it is utterly boring.

American main stream, Hollywood productions get the dosh, get the mentions on the Beeb and the big opening nights at Leicester Square. Shops are flooded with film paraphernalia until people vomit over it. This is not fair, but neither is it necessary! Some of the best films I have seen were made on a very tight budget. In fact, in some ways I think shoestring budgets might be a positive thing. Correct me if I am wrong!

When I go back to Sweden, I do find things very much the same of late. Everything is much more 'USA' orientated. As a former Modern language teacher, I notice many teenagers speak English with an American accent rather than British nowadays. Coincidence? Maybe.
Nevertheless, there are still quite a few British productions being shown in Sweden. Also slightly more foreign films than what are generally broadcast in the UK - and quite a few Swedish good quality productions, too. Wallander, to mention but one.

Foreign films in Sweden are always subtitled so you can get the benefit of actually hearing the original language. To me, that adds enormously to the whole film experience.
During one Gothenburg Film festival, I watched an Albanian film, in Albanian and Italian - with German (!) subtitles. Now - that was a bit too much even for me!

Anyway - here's me hoping for more British films in Britain. Less Hollywood.
Maybe I'm just being too picky!!?


  1. Great post!

    I think brit films were better in the 50's, 60's, period. I loved films like "Saturday night, sunday morning" Kitchen sink drama's like "This Sporting Life"

    I also used to like the cheesy Hammer Horrors. I think the brits are best when they stick to what they are best at. Although I do wish that filmmakers would be more diverse.

    Today its either gritty social realism about Britain, or costume drama's and Richard Curtis mainstream content.

    I love old school brit films and TV sitcoms.


  2. I totally agree with you. Here in Sweden we have been waching Agatha Christie series almost every weekday this summer, but yesterday when I put on the telly it was an American version of Agatha Christie so I was very disapointed and swiched channel emediatly. We can´t have British ladies and gentleman speaking with an American accent now then can we? Discusting I´d say


  3. Tonight I was luckier, it was the classic Agatha Christie "Evil under the sun" on the telly filmed on location in the famous art deco hotel Burgh Island in Devon. You should visit it some time as it is nereby your home. It is very expensive to live there the smallest rooms costs about 385£ per night but next time I go to Devon I think that I´ll stay there just for one night anyway.(Just for the feeling)