Is London Real? The Actual/Virtual/Fantastic City from Blow-Up to Bandersnatch

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Book Chapter

Date of Original Version



While London has frequently served as the location for films across cinematic history, the city itself has sometimes been seen to construct space as a meta-location, a place that reveals itself as it inhabits a reality that is not always there and, perhaps, one that suggests itself as existing only in the imaginations of characters and often only as a fabricated, fabulous creation of the world of the film itself. This chapter focuses primarily on two films that bookend and best describe the phenomenon of London as an uncanny, disrupted filmic site – a city whose reality accepts an ontological position as a performative film set: Antonioni’s 1966 Blow-Up and Blake’s 2018 Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Both films conceptualize this slippage of reality that is embodied in the filmic geography of London with a specific emphasis on the characters’ individual agency that further positions cinematic London as a creation sustained primarily by the human mind. While Blow-Up, as a product of “Swinging London,” emphasizes a London that is a proactive element in the narrative, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a 21st-century experimental, interactive Netflix release, shows the powerful presence of London realized through the diverging story threads and extra-diegetically through complex paratextual constructions.

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