‘The Figure (and Disfigurement) in the Landscape: The Go-Between’
The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1971) makes the causal links between the body and the country estate in which it performs ironically explicit. These links are brutal. The country estate’s grounds have been landscaped and its outlying fields are cultivated, but they in turn seem to affect a figure in the landscape, inflicting violence on the protagonist Leo Colston. The violence paradoxically embraces both myth and historical materialism; the Gothic tradition is redeployed by the film to make the dark side of the landscape visible. The triangulation established between landscape, body and camera in The Go-Between creates an ironic symbolism. Leo emerges as a new, human incarnation of the genius loci of the picturesque tradition: he performs within and thus alters the landscape, while he himself takes on elements of that landscape. This essay considers how The Go-Between presents its historical landscape as a socio-economic construction, which is ultimately instrumental in the downfall of the genius loci; Leo is fatally forced to confuse his magical and materialist readings of the estate’s grounds. The landscape is thus reclaimed from his imagination by its owners. Various disfigurements become the corollaries of Leo’s performance in, and the owners’ reclamation of, the historical landscape. Several characters are marked.