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Film Locations
Nicky Hamlyn
Film Locations
In contrast to the other work discussed here, Ian Breakwell's film The Institution (1978) posits all environments, habitats and homes as potentially institutional. Just as specific social situations require particular forms of words and address (etiquette), so even one's own home, insofar as it may 'demand' appropriate forms of behaviour, can be seen as an institution.

The film begins with several tracking shots down dim corridors, making an implicit association between public institutions; hospitals, prisons, semi-public/private ones such as hotels, and tower-block housing, which is where these corridors turn out to be.

With this idea planted in the mind, we go on a car journey to a house somewhere in London. On the way we catch glimpses of what appear to be masked mannequins, standing by the road side or looking out from sitting-room windows, posing, as if in a prescribed manner appropriate to their setting. This sequence leads into the rest of the film, which takes place in a bedsit, in which the lone character, played by singer-songwriter Kevin Coyne, sings, rants, smokes and reminisces.

The film is as much about the character's banal interactions with the furniture as it is also about him and his stories. Behaviour, the habitual and largely subconscious routines out of which our days are structured, forms the texture and pattern of our daily lives. The Institution is about these patterns, and about how and where they are played out.

Nicky Hamlyn
Still from The Institution by Ian Breakwell, 1978
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