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Film Locations
Nicky Hamlyn
Film Locations
Location: Local position, situation (OED).

Broadly speaking, locations can be said to function in two ways in narrative cinema and documentary. In the cinema, specifically Hollywood and its variants, locations have been the site, or scene, for narrative action. To this extent, the unique histories and peculiarities of a given location, or rather place, are unimportant, except insofar as they facilitate an appropriate mood, or evoke a certain emotional response. (Perhaps one could say that "location" here means any suitable place to set a film, regardless of that location's own history, whereas in "place" a unique, inseparable history, which will very likely have shaped the appearance of that place, is implied).

Exceptionally, in Westerns like John Ford's The Searchers (1956), the location, in this case Monument Valley, has an allegorical function that is central to the film's themes. In another late classic western: Shane (George Stephens, 1953) a related set of themes is expressed. Firstly, the importance of the fight for land -its claiming, settling and cultivating- is a driving force of the narrative, and dramatises the desirability of a place to belong to, to call one's own.

The film also records the concomitant decline of the way of life of the lone-riding gunslinger, or wandering cowhand, who metaphorically and literally rides off into the sunset at the end. Documentary, even when it purports to be "about" a particular place is invariably about the population of that place, its flora and fauna, even in such desolate locales as the Namib desert, whose most characteristic and dramatic features are actually its sand dunes.

Still of Monument Valley; Copyright 1994 - 2004 John Crossley. American South West
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