• Herakles on Chesil Bank: The Archers, Disavowable Classicism, and The Small Back Room

    Stephe Harrop (see profile)
    Ancient Greece & Rome, Classical Tradition
    Classsical literature, Criticism, interpretation, etc., Mythology, Greek, Greek drama (Tragedy), Motion pictures, Twentieth century
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Classical Reception Studies, Classical receptions, film adaptation, Mythologies, Classical reception, Greek mythology, Greek tragedy, 20th-century film, Adaptation
    Permanent URL:
    The film The Small Back Room was written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and released in 1949. It is the wartime tale of an injured and embittered back-room scientist, who is recruited to help combat a new kind of explosive device. Based on Nigel Balchin’s 1943 novel, the film significantly alters the story’s climactic sequence so that the wounded Sammy Rice successfully disarms the mysterious device and, in so doing, restores his own self-esteem, while gaining the respect of the military personnel who witness his achievement. In this way, a downbeat source-text is transformed into a mutedly redemptive narrative of loyalty, friendship, and unconventional heroism. Hentzi (2008) identifies Powell and Pressburger’s adaptation of Balchin’s novel as ‘telling a version of the legend of Philoctetes’. This chapter builds upon Hentzi’s argument, together with Moor’s (2005) discussion of ‘magical spaces’ in Powell and Pressburger’s films, to analyse the strategies by which the pair infuse a recurring sense of quasi-mythic male friendship, and miraculous healing, into a film which is most often understood as one of their rare excursions into filmic realism. In the process, it formulates a new approach to reading The Archers’ classical reception during the later 1940s, focusing on their cultivation of deliberately ambiguous scenes and images whose classical influences could be swiftly disavowed by filmmakers under pressure to conform to the demands of realist cinematography.
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
    All Rights Reserved


    Item Name: pdf sh-herakles-on-chesil-bank-2021.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 66