We come, our country's rights to save: English rural landscape and leftist aesthetics in Comrades

Paul Newland

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Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, representations of rural landscapes in British cinema were most notably found in what became termed the heritage film genre (as exemplified by A Room with a View). These films have often been critiqued for their alleged conservatism (political but also aesthetic) and their ideological perniciousness. But Bill Douglas’s epic film about the Tolpuddle martyrs, Comrades (1986) – uniquely for 1980s British cinema – incorporates a range of leftist aesthetic devices in order to mark the English rural landscape as a politicized space of socio-cultural conflict. The film foregrounds the fact that the English rural landscape has been the subject of a long and complex tradition of representation. But as it does this it also critiques the ideological nature of much of this representation. Therefore, this article argues that Comrades is evidently Brechtian in its desire to involve spectators in this important story of political struggle, and, as such, unlike many British cinematic representations of English rural landscape in the 1980s and 1990s, the film encourages intellectual curiosity in (and objective judgement on) the socio-cultural events taking place in the rural landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-347
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 04 Sept 2015


  • British cinema
  • rural
  • landscape
  • Bill Douglas
  • aesthetics


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