Cold War Spaces: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in television and cinema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines two adaptations of John le Carré’s 1974 novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the 1979 BBC television serial and the 2011 cinema film, in order to investigate critical orthodoxies around the aesthetics of television and cinema. It examines the dialectical relationship between space and place, concluding that filming location acts as a ‘framing place’, shaping production practices and effecting a dialogic interchange between production space and narrative place. Drawing on original research interviews with production team members, it illuminates the process of production and demonstrates the interaction between material space and social space in the interaction of location and practitioners. The article concludes that the television serial’s mimetic fidelity to its source novel results in a text which is at times more ‘cinematic’ than the cinema version. The cinema film features a more fully developed visual concept throughout its aesthetic, in the motif of the cages, grids, and boxes. However, in its narrative compression and unsubtle use of signifiers of place, the cinema adaptation is at times less ‘cinematic’ than the television serial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-395
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Edinburgh University Press in Journal of British Cinema and Television. The Version of Record is available online at:


  • 16mm film
  • aesthetics
  • BBC
  • cinematic
  • George Smiley
  • John le Carré
  • location
  • space
  • place
  • spy
  • televisual
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


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