Oxford the Cinematic City (Pre-trip)

At the beginning of this module we were given a topic that expressed the relationship between the city and the media, and the choice of city, which would be used as reference for said topic. My group was given the cinematic city as our topic and we chose the city of Oxford as the basis for our analysis. At the beginning we concentrated on finding films (or at least notable scenes) that were filmed in the city. We also assigned each other various tasks to cover. I was assigned to collect a list of films and/or scenes, which were shot in Oxford.

Among the various titles that emerged one in particular stood out from the rest was the Harry Potter franchise. Oxford’s historic buildings and architecture lent themselves well to the aesthetic themes of the Harry Potter series. This has made the city a hotspot for tourism for fans of the franchise looking to discover where the various scenes of the film were shot. This PDF file provides a quick summary of the locations for tours http://www.locationoxfordshire.co.uk/docs/Trails-HarryPotter.pdf.

However while Oxford is very much a cinematic city if one compares it to the likes London and New York, notice a key difference in how the cities are presented. London for example has a number of its elements presented when one asks the question of what comes to mind when one mentions it. From the landmarks like Big Ben and Tower bridge to the History of the Blitz and the Industrial Revolution. In London serves as the setting for many films both within the landmarks spectacle and beyond

If one looks to Oxford’s tourism locations one finds a particular focus on the older buildings and locations (Visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com, 2015). This can be attributed to how the city has been represented in media such as cinema “Certain key features are captured and promoted, others are disdained or renarrativized, in order that a more desirable sense of self/place may emerge.” (Ashgate.com, n.d.). This creates an imposing facade that smothers the entirety of the city under it’s umbrella and thus has become the ruling preconception of the city and the inhabitants who live in its shadow  In the case of Oxford the university and its historical buildings are the focal points for it’s representation. This can be seen with it’s tourist trade, which places heavy emphasis on the various colleges within the city. To paraphrase Giuliana Bruna (Clarke,1997) Oxford’s filmic image is a result of outside eyes choosing what to glamourise, which in turn drew the tourist’s gaze. This process is akin to the Ouroboros consuming it’s own tail eternally over a over again.


Ashgate.com, (n.d.). Introduction: An Arguement for the Cinematic City. [online] Available at: https://www.ashgate.com/pdf/SamplePages/Tourism_and_the_Branded_City_Intro.pdf [Accessed 5 Mar. 2015].

Clarke, D. (1997). The cinematic city. London: Routledge.

locationoxfordshire.co.uk, (n.d.). The Harry Potter Trail. [online] Available at: http://www.locationoxfordshire.co.uk/docs/Trails-HarryPotter.pdf [Accessed 5 Mar. 2015].

Visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com, (2015). Attractions in Oxford and Oxfordshire county, England. [online] Available at: http://www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com/see-and-do/Attractions.aspx [Accessed 5 Mar. 2015].


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