‘Here is Wales, there England’Contested borders and blurred boundaries in <i>On the Black Hill</i>

Type Chapter
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Rural Landscapes on Film
EditorsPaul Newland
PublisherManchester University Press
Chapter6
Pages103-118
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781526115270
ISBN (Print)9780719091575
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2016
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Abstract

Since the birth of film, the rugged mountains and rolling hills of Wales have attracted filmmakers from afar. Traditionally, Wales has predominantly been represented as an unknown but exoticised ‘Other’ in need of mapping, or a peripheral, distant land, geographically distant from the ‘centre’. In this chapter I argue that Andrew Grieve’s adaptation of Bruce Chatwin’s award-winning novel, On the Black Hill (1987), presents a rich and evocative representation of the Welsh borderlands that in numerous ways blurs the traditional representational boundaries of Welsh landscapes on film. This history of one family over the course of the twentieth century is played out amidst the dramatic landscape of the borderlands, but the role of the landscape goes beyond merely providing a backdrop to the border disputes, war and loss that punctuates the characters lives. The traditional relationship between characters and landscape (where the latter is used to define the former) is turned on its head, for here the characters become a function of the landscape. I explore how the film, through the relationship of the twins and the location of the farm itself, articulates the relationship between Wales and England as a ‘site of struggle’ based on landownership and power.