The femme fatale has always been a popular archetype, represented on the screen by the likes of Barbara Stanwyck and Marlene Dietrich. A femme fatale uses her beauty, charm and intelligence to seduce the male protagonist and rob him of his future.
The earliest films on this theme were made in Germany in the 1920s, the best-known being the 1929 silent film Pandora’s Box (starring Louise Brooks) and the first German sound film The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich). Hollywood – with the help of German refugee directors such as Fritz Lang – picked up the theme in the 1940s when the classic films noirs were made.
In recent years femmes fatales have become more complex and their intentions more ambiguous, as seen in Ex Machina and The Handmaiden.
After 1990, British filmmakers were faced with a country which was losing many of its traditional industries. A second wave of social realism emerged, involving many new film directors such as Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay, Clio Barnard and Shane Meadows. Their films deal with communities torn apart by unemployment, job insecurity and years of austerity.
The films in our Social Realism season range from the naturalism of Ken Loach to the visual poetry of Lynne Ramsay. They all take an unflinching look at how people are affected by the destructive pressures of modern life and how, in their different ways, they fight back.
Included in the season is the release of Sarah Gavron’s new film Rocks, a portrait of teenage sisterhood in contemporary London.