Published  29/06/2012

London Olympics Launch Pad 2012: Project Model by Danny Boyle

London Olympics Launch Pad 2012: Project Model by Danny Boyle


The mise-en-scène revealed 12 June by film-maker Danny Boyle, officially now proposed as the opening set-piece within the Olympic Stadium in east London, raised the hackles of most arts observers and critics. A seemingly happy dream scene of a rural English backwater was offered in toytown mode by Boyle: this was a scale model of picturesque English rural life, yet curiously reminiscent in profile if not content of one of today's Chapman brothers' cataclysmic human set-pieces.

Yet there it is, much to the liking of Country Life, Horse and Hound, and even The Times evidently. Thus composed of a green and pleasant land, cottage and cottars, village cricket pitch and players, horses and ponies, paddocks and fields, cows and sheep, yokels, allotted gardens, maypoles, even puffy cloud simulacra above: and to boot further afield, a barely identifiable Glastonbury Tor (hint of an ancient pilgrim past). There is a specially cast great bell. This will toll in the Games. There is also, contemporarily already planned, a phalanx of (possibly striking) NHS nurses. Contemporaneity is also served by the landscaping of the Tor Hill being apparently modelled on the recent works of cosmic landscapist Charles Jencks. All to the good, but where else is 21st-century Britain, for outstanding technical innovation, financial global centring, IT growth, engineering skill and productivity and creativity within a world leading all arts spectrum.

But is not this model actually a cunning decoy by Boyle for a traumatising and yet pacifying filmic expansion of reality? Will his famous Frankenstein-obsessive condition create an Olympian-stein nightmare springing from this archaic and tranquil backdrop? Finally, to end on a palliative note for the stunned global audience, voluntarily entrapped (yet at great cost) as in this slightly claustrophobic stadium, Boyle will offer a contemporary scenario achieved by electronic media writ large. Can there be an emergent hi-tech wafting of manure odours, mown grass; with repeated cricket “sixes” shot into the crowd suddenly awry: overlaid with superimposed flight path noise, motorway hum; now nurses dashing into A&E, even seasonal floodlands, nuclear pollution, riots (simulated)? So to a rising crescendo of reality: rescue teams only helicoptered in at dusk. Danny Boyle has much up his leather sleeve it is to be hoped. He claims that "this is a festival of the Olympic ideal" which may indeed prove hard to verify amidst all the sweaty nostalgia and mystic heritage, proposed thus far.

It has been justifiably claimed by Janet Street-Porter (Independent on Sunday, 17 June 2012) that a trick has been missed by a failure to add in the major foreign-exchange earning international superstars: Teletubbies, Wallace and Gromit, Thomas the Tank Engine and Fungus the Bogeyman. As Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust has suggested, Boyle “is lost in lah-laa land” (Guardian, 15 June 2012): but inferring plausibly that Boyle's countryside set was actually even then a feint. There is much still to come, so fingers-crossed. Are we indeed not the more concerned today with an aesthetic of traumatisation, in the mode of the philosophers Theodor Adorno and Guy Debord? To give Boyle full free scope for this, to fire up the Olympic crowds as never before, could be to know that in the Happy Planet Index 2012 Britain emerges as the happiest European nation of all.

“Olympian-stein” could bring about here a stimulating contrast – the return of the real. The soundtrack includes Underworld and so can pace up a Frankensteinian frenzy; Clockwork Orange skits can be collaged in. The clouds open raining “cats and dogs” as we say, under countless umbrellas. All before a sublime Royal personage appears, restoring peace by a merest shimmering presence amidst a surge of Britannic music, and of course the National Anthem (All must stand).

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