A ‘Passion for the Real’: Sex, Affect and Performance in the Films of Andrea Arnold

Tanya Horeck

in The New Extremism in Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641604
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651221 | DOI:
A ‘Passion for the Real’: Sex, Affect and Performance in the Films of Andrea Arnold

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This chapter explores what the idea of a new European extremism might mean in the context of contemporary filmmaking in Britain by addressing the work of Andrea Arnold. While Arnold's work is seen to sit somewhere between British social realism and European art cinema, this chapter looks at how her emphasis on the sensory and the affective aligns her with the films of the new extremism. Focusing on the explicit sex scenes in her two feature films, Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009), it argues that affect makes the viewer engage in an intimate and ethical way, with the bodies on display. In looking at how Arnold's films invite spectators to watch the sexual encounters through an ethical optics, revising understandings about the relationship between viewer and viewed, the chapter observes that, despite the fact that the films of the new extremism are frequently viewed as amoral for their sensational content, there is more of an ethical dimension to many of these films than is generally credited.

Keywords: Britain; filmmaking; art cinema; new extremism; Andrea Arnold; social realism; explicit sex; Red Road; Fish Tank; affect

Chapter.  5711 words. 

Subjects: Film

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