'The Great Game': Grids and Boxes in Cold War Screen Spaces

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    David Bordwell (2012) notes a chess motif in the mise-en-scène of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson 2011), connecting the film’s aesthetic to its espionage theme. This article develops Bordwell’s idea to argue that the motif of the grid or box is a common one in espionage thrillers in cinema and television. The article demonstrates how setting, set design and camerawork intersect to underpin narrative structures and visual metaphors. It connects production site to construction of onscreen space to consider the visual style and metaphoric function of these Cold War spaces on screen. The article concludes that a stable Cold War “chronotope” informs these screen productions, with the mise-en-scène permeated by the motif of the grid or box. Case studies include The IPCRESS File (Furie 1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson 2011), and The Game (BBC 2014).
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    JournalFilm Criticism
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2019


    • Film criticism
    • Cultural geography
    • Television drama
    • Spy thriller
    • Chronotope
    • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    • The Game
    • Cold War
    • Brutalism


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