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Gendered trauma in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake (2004)

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Dedicated to the loving memory of [his] parents, a doctor and a midwife, Mike Leigh's film, Vera Drake (2004), takes a retrospective look at both the experience of working class women in post World War II London and at the cinematic depictions of the working class in the same time period. Leigh locates his film in the tradition of the kitchen sink films of late 1950s and early 1960s British cinema, a tradition that originates from the leftist documentary movement of inter-war England. The kitchen sink films aimed at realistic portrayals of the working class; the mise en scne of Vera Drake invokes the aesthetics of these films, and Leigh makes specific allusion to Karel Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), a film based on Alan Sillitoe's 1958 novel. Famous for its depiction of factory worker Arthur Seaton's plight in the industrial northern city of Nottingham in post World War II England, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning also has a subplot that, like many of the kitchen sink films, subordinates, if not utterly silences, working class women's stories. Vera Drake is a feminist, neo kitchen sink film that focuses on the silent trauma of working class women.

Keywords: British cinema; Mike Leigh; Vera Drake; abortion; gendered trauma; kitchen sink

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/seci.3.3.211_1

Affiliations: University of Texas at Austin.

Publication date: March 15, 2007

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  • Studies in European Cinema provides an outlet for research into any aspect of European cinema and is unique in its interdisciplinary nature, celebrating the rich and diverse cultural heritage across the continent. The journal is distinctive in bringing together a range of European cinemas in one volume and in its positioning of the discussions within a range of contexts - the cultural, historical, textual, and many others.
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