Section B: British Film – Identity Study – “The Troubles”

Exam Board Expectations


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  • Identity and belonging

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UK Flag


irish flag

  • “British” OR belonging to something/someone/somewhere else

For example:

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Does Gerry see it that way?

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  • Narrative
  • Characterisation – Attached or Alienated from being “British”? HOW are the Irish represented – Victims? For example:

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The British Army battering through Irish emblazoned blockades –

  • WHAT are the connotations behind this?
  • Does this ‘Setup’ (Syd Field) the representation of the British as trailblazing through Irish Idealism?
  • HOW is this in contrast to the character below:

gp Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson)

  • Is she trying to help Gerry’s cause?

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Analyse Gareth’s speech at the end – HOW does her passion and anger strike similar emotions into the spectator? Does this force the spectator to side with a cause?

  1. YOU WILL have a choice of 2 questions for this section – ONLY answer 1!
  2. YOU MUST study the films in detail and learn the film language (Verbal, non-verbal and technical codes) from the texts to demonstrate your argument and/or analytical skills to the examiner.
  3. YOU MUST also consider HOW meanings are created and HOW the Director(s) have constructed these through the micro features of film.

Case Study 1) –

‘In the Name of the Father’ (1993 – Dir. Jim Sheridan)


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Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon gc

Pete Postlethwaite as Giuseppe Conlon


John Lynch as Paul Hill


Mark Sheppard as Paddy Armstrong


Beatie Edney as Carole Richardson

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Emma Thompson as Gareth Peirce


2014 – Questions

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‘Conflict’ Task

Exemplar Answer – Homework

Section B - FM2 Answer_Page_1

Exemplar Analysis – Past Paper Question

Watch the opening sequence BELOW and identify how the Director (Jim Sheridan) constructs the representation of ‘conflict’ in the opening sequence.

YOU SHOULD focus on the following micro features:

Mise-en-scene – In particular Setting, Props, Character appearance and Lighting – for example the conflict takes place in broad daylight and is mainly shot in high key, naturalistic lighting. However, the grey exposure highlights how desperate and miserable life inside this “war zone” were.

Mise-en-scene analysis –

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WHAT are the connotations behind the colour white being used in this close-up shot of Gerry behind bars?

Cinematography – In particular shot types such as:

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Close-Up shot of the soldiers in pursuit of Gerry and his friend.

  • Camera Angles
  • Camera Movement
  • Composition (Framing) – For example:

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Central composition of the “boys” through the OSS (Over the Shoulder Shot) inside the armoured tank vehicle – Connotations? Are the boys seen as the enemy?

Sound – Diegetic Dialogue, non-diegetic voiceover – for example:

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This is anchored by a shallow focus, POV shot of the Army surveying the surroundings and looking for any sign of potential danger and conflict.

  • Non-Diegetic soundtrack



Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand
’cause I’m a voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child baby
I want to say one more last thing
I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
I’ll give it right back to ya one of these days
I said I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
I’ll give it right back one of these days
Oh yeah
If I don’t meet you no more in this world then uh
I’ll meet ya on the next one
And don’t be late
Don’t be late
’cause I’m a voodoo child voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child
Hey hey hey

I’m a voodoo child baby

I don’t take no for an answer
Question no

Connotations? HOW do they represent the conflict itself and Gerry’s conflict with the IRA and people in the positions of power.

NarrativeHOW does this opening sequence ‘Set Up’ (Syd Field) the conflict that will take place throughout the narrative?

Non-Linear Structure – Does this ‘signify’ (De Saussure) – through the technical code of flashbacks at the beginning of the text and how Gerry Conlon recalls his experiences of growing up in Belfast – the chaotic, confrontational nature of his life?

AudienceWHAT position – according to Stuart Hall (1980) – are the spectators put into?

Further Reading:

in the name

“The opening sequence of the film provides for a great deal of narrative detail, using Belfast as a location to give meaning. The iconography in these sequences suggest war. The audience witnesses scenes of extreme conflict where the army is mobilised. Gerry appears on the roof of a building and is mistaken for a sniper“.

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“Troops move in quickly. Soldiers, uniforms and tanks all add meaning to the scenario as one of conflict and chaos“.

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In In the Name of the Father there are two central conflicts: one between the Guildford Four and the British state, the other between Gerry and his father.

To what extent do you AGREE with this statement?

YOU MUST provide at least x2 examples of where BOTH Conflicts are represented in the text – for example:

  • Opening Sequence – “I want you to have some respect” – “Aye’, respect for who?” –

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  • Jail Cell scene –

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Does the use of shot-reverse-shot increase the tension and conflict between Father and son?

Is this conflict something all spectators can ‘personally identify’ (Katz) with?

  • Courtroom interrogation of Inspector Dixon (Corin Redgrave)

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Connotations behind turning away from the defendants (Guildford Four) towards a British Jury?

The reaction – Fury!

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HOW significant is Carol Richardson’s (Beatie Edney) reaction (See above) to Inspector Dixon’s denial? Is she Irish? HOW does she identify herself?

Useful Links and/or Resources – Revision 

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Revision task:

Lesson 7 – 9

Analysis task:


Lesson 10

Conflict revision task:

Lesson 11 – 12

Key scene analysis:

Key scene analysis revision task:

Lesson 16

Lesson 17 – 18

Analysis revision task:


Lesson 19

Review task:

Lesson 20

Lesson 24

Comparison of Hunger and ITNOTF:

Lesson 25:

Exam Topics:

Lesson 28

Exam topics – structure and analysis:

Lesson 29

Exam preparation – ‘carousel of questions’

Question 1:

Question 2:

Question 3:

Question 4:

Question 5:

Question 6:

Lesson 30

WJEC mock exam:

Case Study 2) –

‘Hunger’ (2008 – Dir. Steve McQueen)


‘Hunger’ – Study Guide

Study Guide – Key Points:

  1. Complete the Questions in the document for Revision purposes.
  2. ConfinementHOW has McQueen constructed this in the text? Focus on specific key scenes (see resources below) and micro features such as Cinematography and Mise-en-scene.

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  1. Symbolism of the rain drop on the knuckle – What does this ‘signify’ (De Saussure) according to the Director Steve McQueen?

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  1. The Hunger strike itself HOW are their bodies used as a “weapon” and do you agree with McQueen’s overview of this?

Steve McQueen – Interviews

YOU MUST watch these interviews to establish some of the reasons behind the stylistic choices of the text in terms of:


Critical Review – 

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  • “McQueen’s movie, starring Michael Fassbender as Sands, paints the hunger strike as tragic but quite without tragic grandeur. It shows how dysfunctional and despairing the whole remorseless process was: how the Irish republican movement, angry and frustrated, chose to put self-harm at the centre of its mythology.”
  • Hunger offers a bold insight: that the hunger strikes grew logically out of the stomach-turning “dirty protest”. Cell walls were smeared with excrement and urine to disgust, horrify and provoke the guards – a reaction the audience can’t help but share – and this is where prisoners ate and slept and made decisions about the future of a united Ireland.”
  • Stuart Graham is excellent as the Maze prison guard whose private loneliness McQueen shows, and whose fate actually makes the IRA leadership look as vengeful as gangsters.”

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‘Private loneliness’

YOU SHOULD watch the opening sequence to establish:

1) WHO the Guard belongs to by deconstructing the micro-features?

For example:

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2) a) What does the shot below ‘signify’ (De Saussure) about the dangers of the job?

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b) HOW are the IRA represented stereotypically in this shot?

YOU SHOULD consider what character role(s) they conform to (according to Propp) and whether this is similar to the representation in In the Name of the Father.

‘The common portrayal of the IRA is as crazed, bloodthirsty murderers’ (Greenslade – 2000)


Exam Paper Questions (2011 – 2013):

2011 - Section B

2012 - Section B

2012 Summer - Section B

2013 - Section B

2013 Summer - Section B

Areas to cover from Past Paper Questions:

  • “Borders”

‘In the Name of the Father’

  1. Real or symbolic?
  2. Opening scene represents the imprisonment and persecution of the Republican population of Belfast – reminiscent of a war zone.
  • British Military and Intelligence capture Gerry Conlon in Irish Territory
  1. Gerry – Once he crosses the border he is persecuted by a bitter housemate in a squat that is not under the same guidelines/restrictions as “back home” – for example Paddy Armstrong doesn’t defend his friends like Paul Hill
  2. Prison – Division within the prison and how the Irish are seen as “scum” as one prisoner refers to them – sentiment shared by the courtroom through outbursts.
  3. Protection – “Horsely Road blown to smitherines!” inside the prison – no barrier or border control over what goes on outside
  • Context – Peace Wall – Why it’s there?
  • Verisimilitude – Conlon is represented as a resentful, nationalistic figure in prison who doesn’t trust anyone British – Compare to HOW Conlon is represented outside of the text (see to raise issues over truthfulness and refer to the scene where he prevents the Warden from being killed by McAndrew


  1. Prison and Northern Ireland – British ruled and operated
  2. IRA Prisoners – NOT Given Political status in the prison and are thus treated rather barbarically in some scenes
  • Sands and the other prisoners – what are they fighting for?
  • “Stereotypes”

‘In the Name of the Father’

  1. Challenge OR reinforced – e.g Challenged = Gerry and Gareth Pierce working together, United in victory at the end of the trial – Reinforced = Mass attending, God fearing, drinking culture, IRA Bombers
  2. “Britishness” – Harsh, cruel, ‘villainous’ (Propp), ruthless, victimising – Interrogation scenes with Inspector Robert Dixon when he says “let out all that hate!” and how he says that Irish are “manipulative” when he meets with Gareth Pierce; Celebratory in defeating the Irish when the initial verdict is given
  • Gender – Gerry seems rather misogynistic towards Pierce at first but she becomes a Matriarchal figure who replaces the father he lost in prison – even her name is masculine sounding.
  1. “Men act, women appear” (John Berger) – Female figures are strong, dependable and able to fight for what’s right
  2. Focus on 1-2 other gender related approaches


  1. British Prison Guards (Loyalist) and IRA Prisoners
  2. Catholicism and Religion
  • British Government – Do they challenge the negative stereotypes compared to ‘In the Name of the Father’ OR are they maintained due to their “unshakeable” resolve.
  • Death of Bobby Sands – Does this draw sympathy from the audience towards the cause (Irish Independence) and/or disgust towards the British government?
  • “Conflict” –

‘In the Name of the Father’

  1. Father vs. Son – Gerry vs. British Government/Authorities
  2. Good vs. Evil (Binary Opposition – Levi Strauss) – but who are they and how do they differ dependent on the spectators positioning compared to the characters on screen?
  3. Context – History of “The Troubles” and events that took place when the film is set (1974) and produced (1993) – Zeitgeist
  • Where does the conflict extend to – Chronological Order – Streets of Belfast; Men and Boys on the Republican side; Father & Son; Prejudice in the Squat; Prejudice from British society – for example the taxi driver referring to Paul and Gerry as “Paddys”; Police interrogating Paul & Gerry; Courtroom; Prison; Police vs. “The Campaign”; Justice vs. Injustice


  1. Conflict between the British Guards, Government and IRA
  2. Conflict between Sands and the Priest and how it’s described as a moment “where a priest desperately tries to persuade Sands not to begin his slow suicide, on moral grounds.” :
  • Conflict between Narrative and Spectator – who do we side with? Why?
  1. Opening Scene – Division between 2 communities; Loyalist Community – fear of persecution and retribution for doing their job; Danger; Oppression.
  • “Narrative & Characters” –

‘In the Name of the Father’ and ‘Hunger’

 Narrative StructureLinear although there are some non-linear elements; Closure; Todorov’s 3 Part Narrative; Roland Barthes – “5 Codes” Theory; Levi Strauss Binary Opposition; Syd Field Narrative Theory

See Link:      

CharactersPropp’s Character roles and how they evoke responses from the audience – where, how, why – through Audience theory – for example Stuart Hall (1980); Hyperdermic Needle Theory (Katz & Lazarfeld – 1955)

 ‘Hunger’ :

“Despite its polarising subject matter, the film is also curiously apolitical, refusing to make a hero of Sands or monsters of his guards.”

  • “Opening Sequences” –

 ‘In the Name of the Father’ and ‘Hunger’

  1. Compare & Contrast
  2. Micro Features – What meanings do they represent and what responses do they gain from the spectator
  • HOW do they establish conflict and/or tension?
  1. HOW do they introduce the themes & issues represented throughout the text?
  2. HOW do they construct the main protagonists representation?
  • “Power & Authority”

 ‘In the Name of the Father’

  1. Gerry Conlon – Rebellious and doesn’t have any “respect”, especially for “himself” as his Father puts it.
  2. Scene in Court (Prosecution speech) – Was this a conviction or a political witch-hunt? Did the Conlons receive a fair trial?
  • Father – Becomes more inspirational and authoritive as they become closer in prison
  1. Inspector Dixon – Has the power and authority to sentence Conlon (wrongly) for terrorism and under the ‘Prevention of Terrorism’ Act is able to persecute (even torture) him for however many days before charging him – resulting in Conlon signing a statement in the Jail.
  2. Repressive State Apparatus (Louis Althusser) Inspector Dixon is represented as the evil figurehead who tries to maintain the Status Quo of UK Government control and to hide the truth behind their convictions of the Guildford Four.


  1. Repressive State Apparatus (Louis Althusser) – Pulling the men out of the cells and forcing them to shave/clean themselves; Anal probing of their communication with the outside world – Violating, humiliating and disturbing.

2. The British Government NOT granting them Political status in Prison, whom the Priest describes as “unshakeable” in the signature scene of the film – Similar to how Gerry Conlon’s non-diegetic voiceover describes how the British had to be “beaten out” of anywhere they occupied.

  • “Need to Belong” – 

‘In the Name of the Father’ 

  1. Gerry joining in with the rioters in the Opening scene and moving to the forefront of the protestors
  2. “Test of Maturity” and “Rite of Passage” (Robert Bly – 1986)

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Gerry’s imprisonment – Is able to cope with this burden? Is this the ‘Test’ he deserves after years of being a petty thief?

Broken Frame shots like the one above – Are they frequently presented in the text?

  • Many examples of this such as the IRA threatening to knee cap the “Boys”, Gerry befriending “Hippies” in London, Befriending McAndrew in jail and becoming a part of the rebellious fraction of the prison at the concern and frustration of his Father, taking Drugs with the other prisoners
  • Need to Belong – Need for Salvation!


See :

  • “At first, the story is told with very little dialogue, reflecting the prisoners’ lack of voice in the outside world.” – Therefore resorting to desperate measures (Hunger Strike) to ensure the cause achieves some form of recognition and how Sands believe that putting his life on the line is “not just the only thing I can do, it’s the right thing”.

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