Trouble breathing: neoliberal poetics in ’71 (Yann Demange, 2014)

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Upon its release, Demange’s award-winning ’71 was reviewed and celebrated as an unusually dynamic British contribution to the sub-genre of the modern chase movie, following in the footsteps of Escape From New York (Carpenter, 1981) and Apocalypto (Gibson, 2006). Certainly, ’71 offers the pleasures of the action genre, but this line of appeal is complicated by the film’s historical setting during the British military occupation of Northern Ireland, the Irish Times described the film as ‘A visceral reminder of dark days.’ However, '71 has very little to say about the ‘dark days’ and the facts of the conflict, indeed it reverses ‘good’ political filmmaking by enacting a decontextualisation. There is neither a political content nor a related politics of representation in the film. Its politics, I argue in this paper, are in the formal patterning of its chase narrative and it is political precisely as a genre film informed by a hyper-kinetic poetics of neoliberalism. Drawing upon conceptualisations of cinematic cartography in relation to the ‘poetics of circulation of commodity chain narratives’ (Toscano, A. Kinkle, J., 2015), I examine how ’71 constructs its cinematic city as a spectacular zone of commodification, filmed on largely abandoned housing estates in northern England, with Sheffield’s Parkhill estate standing in for Belfast’s Divis flats. This merging of the iconic ‘failed’ post-war architecture of welfare-state modernism with 1970s’ Belfast’s powerfully resonant aura of national crisis enables the film to create an abyssal, fractured city of neoliberal control. Within this zone - across markets of territory, bodies and weapons - the chase proceeds at frenetic, generic pace, opening up a space of encounters and ethical reflection. ’71’s chase, it will be argued, creates a paradoxical breathing space in which breathing itself – as a figure for contemporary precarity and resilience - becomes political.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2016
    EventFilm-Philosophy Conference 2016 - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Duration: 6 Jul 20168 Jul 2016


    ConferenceFilm-Philosophy Conference 2016
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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