A Short History Of The Period Drama, Part Two: MERCHANT IVORY (or, The 80s And 90s)

ARWAV 636x310 A Short History Of The Period Drama, Part Two: MERCHANT IVORY (or, The 80s And 90s)

Ask someone what they think of when you mention 1990s period drama and they might just say “Merchant Ivory” – even if they don’t know what that means.

Launched in 1961, the production powerhouse has become synonymous with period films of the 80s and 90s. Howards End and A Room With A View (that sounds familiar) are pinnacles of both the production house and the aesthetic that it created without really meaning to – having aimed to produce English-language films in India, they instead came to symbolise an entire chapter in cinematic history.

Unlike their predecessors, these period films branched out both physically and subjectively. Sound stages disintegrated into the sprawling freedom of location shoots; out with painted vistas, in with real ones. Where previously the aim had been fealty to the text, now the idea was to explore not just the work but the space in which that work existed. Forty years previously the set had been just that – a mise-en-scène against which the real content was presented. It might be beautiful, it might be Oscar-worthy (Pride and Prejudice in 1940, Great Expectations in 1947, Little Women in 1949), but it wasn’t in the foreground. Merchant Ivory took mise-en-scène and made it a character in its own right.

Read A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PERIOD DRAMA, PART TWO: MERCHANT IVORY (OR, THE 80S AND 90S)
One Room With A View

Read PART THREE
Read PART ONE