Undergraduate Research Journal


One particular mock documentary film that exemplifies imagery’s ability to help viewers suspend disbelief is Peter Watkins’ The War Game (1965), a depiction of the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Britain shot in black and white. The film draws from the British film traditions of both documentary and science fiction by exhibiting a tension between iconography and spectacle. Film, as its most basic function, both tells a story and describes the elements of that story using images, and by doing so can blur the line between fiction and reality. Andrew Higson states that an image can be used either to narrate or describe; if it is narrating, it is iconographic and only part of a whole meaning, and if it is describing, then the single image is a spectacle—enough in itself to be complete (135). A mock documentary applies the aesthetics of a documentary to a fictional setting and story, using images to make the fictional believable. However, The War Game goes a step further, adding spectacular images that have their roots in science fiction. Narration and description, the two seemingly contradictory uses of imagery in film, are actually complimentary in The War Game’s unique depiction of realistic yet fantastic disaster. I propose to explore this mock documentary’s use of images as drawing from two earlier cinematic movements: Italian Neorealism and British Kitchen Sink Realism. In the years preceding The War Game, disaster movies such as Gorgo (1961)



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