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Literature / Another Time, Another Place

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A 1983 novel by Jessie Kesson set on the Black Isle in the north of Scotland in 1944, which was later adapted into a film by Michael Radford as well BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial. Janie is a lonely young woman who spends her days eking out a living by doing odd jobs around her village and working with her much older and deathly dull husband on their farm. Things start to change when three Italian prisoners, Luigi, Paolo and Umberto, from the local POW camp are billeted on the farm and Janie becomes fascinated with the glimpse of a different life that they represent.


Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: The character who loses her man in the war was originally known as Elspeth. She and her boyfriend Callum were probably about Janie's age and were going to marry and emigrate to Canada once the war was over had he not been killed. In the radio play, she listens to Janie's concerns about not fitting in or having any children. She tells that it's best not to think about it and Janie on her way, wondering about the village's undoubtedly harsh reaction if she had fallen pregnant before Callum left for Italy. In the film, she's much closer to Kirsty and Meg's age, and her husband is called Donald (he still gets killed in action). At the end of the film, Janie stops by her house to ask her about some work-related matter and ends up bursting into tears, after which Jess rather reluctantly invites her in. What both characters do have in common is that they are both the closest thing Janie has to a friend.
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  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Janie attempts to invoke this the last time she and Luigi see each other by practically begging him to tell her that he loves her. He says he does, but he doesn't sound very convincing. He doesn't even seem the least bit cut up about leaving her.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Neopolitan/Italian dialogue in the film is unsubtitled. The Dutch DVD however does come with subtitles that fill in most of their dialogue. Tentative experimentation with Google Translate seems to indicate that knowing Italian and/or Neopolitan doesn't add as much info as you might expect, although you do get some you some stuff that might not have been apparent right away, like Paolo being a carpenter and Antonio being Luigi's cousin. Also, just before Luigi and Janie have sex for the first time, he tells Janie that he has needed her since they first met. This is as close as Luigi comes to expressing any genuine feelings for her.
  • Book Worm: Umberto.
  • Break the Cutie: Janie. Else comes out of the movie pretty worse for wear as well.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Luigi's kind of a sleaze, but he does take Janie's initial rejections gracefully. Although, this depends on the adaptation. In the film, the first couple of time that he asks and she tells him "no", he drops the subject. In the radio play, he's more of a nag.
  • Cultural Rebel: Janie, who's the only one in the village to treat the prisoners with anything other than indifference or outright scorn.
  • Downer Ending: By the end of the film, Luigi's in jail, Janie's even more miserable than before, Else is traumatised and the unknown rapist apparently gets off scot-free. The novel and the radio play it a bit more bittersweet with Janie finding the goodbye present that they left behind for her in the bothy.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Everything about the Italians is new and exciting to Janie when compared with everything else in her life.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Played straight with Janie falling into the "Good" category, since her husband doesn't appear to have any interest in her beyond how useful she can be as a labourer. It's not very clear whether or not Dougal ever knew about the affair. He only seems mildly irritated that Janie isn't paying as much attention to him as she usually does. Either that or he does know and he's attempting some Passive-Aggressive Kombat.
  • Gossipy Hens: Pretty much all the female villagers.
  • Hidden Depths: You could be forgiven for thinking during most of the movie that Janie isn't much more than a twenty-something stuck in the emotional mindset of a teenager and that she's going to get eaten alive by the big bad world. While it's true that she's unworldly and perhaps a bit naive, she reveals herself to have some serious moral fibre when she goes to the authorities to to exonerate Luigi at a great personal expense with no hope of ever seeing him again. Luigi might be a shiftless waster but he's not a bad person, and he certainly doesn't deserve to go to jail for a crime he didn't commit. However, you get the feeling he wouldn't have been in any hurry to stick his neck out for Janie if the roles were reversed.
  • Lack of Empathy: Dougal's problem seems to be that he doesn't understand his wife at all: not her frustration with her work, her anger at his disregard for her welfare or her dreams for any sort of life beyond the farm. He gets huffy with her for paying more attention to the POWs than to him, whilst never having paid anything other than the bare minimum of attention to her. Robert in the radio play, on the other hand, seems to have been too stiff and/or shy to even attempt to date anyone, making finding someone who might actually have wanted to marry him impossible. Unlike Dougal, he's properly angry that Janie doesn't show any interest in him, again whilst simultaneously being completely indifferent to her.
  • Let's Have a Cèilidh: One at the start of the film, hosted in a barn.
  • Lonely Together: Janie and Luigi. Eventually crosses over into Pity Sex and Sex for Solace when they hook up.
  • Married to the Job: Dougal is clearly married to his farm, with Janie forever coming a distant second despite much the same sort of work as him if not alongside him.
  • May–December Romance: Janie and Dougal, without the romance part, although the exact age gap is never clarified. Dougal is much more like a father to Janie. This wouldn't be so bad if he were a fun dad, or even a competent one. Instead, he's a cross between an old-school, paternal, laird-of-the-manor-type boss and the most blithely apathetic incarnation of the Standard '50s Father.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Janie and her husband Dougal, who apparently married her so he could have an extra pair of hands for the farm and another income stream. Then again, there's not much to recommend Luigi either other than being different and exciting compared to Dougal and better in the sack as well (although neither of these things really represent much of a challenge).
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Janie goes to military to provide Luigi with an alibi to exonerate him, but she finds that he'll be charged anyway for "association with a civilian female".
  • No Name Given: In the book, Janie's husband is only ever as referred to as "her man". In the film he gets called "Dougal", and "Robert" in the radio play.
    • The lack of names turns out to be significant in the book. At the very end, Janie goes back to the bothy and sees that the POWs have left her a present with a card addressed to "Dina" since none of them ever knew her real name.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dwam: Janie worries about Luigi blabbing to the other POWs about having slept with her (made worse by the fact that she can't understand what they're saying) and ends up having a weird, anxiety-fuelled daydream where she imagines herself naked with all the prisoners leering at her.
  • Older Than They Look / Dawson Casting: Janie's age is never clarified in the film. She looks about 19 or 20 at a push, and even younger in certain lights. Phyllis Logan was actually 27 at the time the film was made.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Janie, though out of necessity rather than preference.
  • P.O.W. Camp: Janie and Dougal have three POWs staying in one of their outbuildings. The others stay at an unseen camp elsewhere outside the village.
  • Rape as Drama: Else is raped by a stranger in the woods while Janie and Luigi meet for the last time, meaning that Janie has to reveal her infidelity to the authorities to try and save him from going to jail.
  • Retcon: The radio play, while being a standalone piece, seems to contradict The White Bird Passes. In it, when Janie talks about wanting to see more of the world, Robert offhandedly replies with "Tinker's blood will out", which Janie takes offence to, suggesting she came from a Travelling background. In TWBP, she had an Intergenerational Friendship with Beulah, a Traveller woman, but was herself part of the Settled community.
  • Romantic False Lead: It's downplayed in the film, but in the book and the radio play, it's quite clear that Janie is initially interested in Paolo, if for no other reason than that he's good-looking. At first it seems that he and Luigi are otherwise evenly matched but, as time goes by, they show their true colours - Luigi dogs work and pressures Janie for sex whilst also pursuing Else whenever he gets the chance. Paolo, on the other hand, labours in the fields without complaint, remains cheerfully optimistic about the fate of his missing wife back in Rome and spends his spare time making toys for the local kids. Janie eventually ends up starting a very brief affair with Luigi, who seems to have worn her down after a fair few months of nagging.
  • Scenery Porn: The movie definitely makes the most of its setting.
  • The Scrooge: Dougal is always looking for "something to put by", and has no qualms about working his wife into the ground to get it. She tells him as much to his face in the film and he doesn't even try to deny it. He doesn't even seem to be saving for anything in particular, not even a rainy day. He shoots down Janie's suggestions that they use any of their newly disposable income from the POWs to buy anything that isn't absolutely essential.
  • Signature Headgear: Janie almost always sports kirby grips or a clasp to keep her hair out of her face. She even wears them in her awkward naked daydream.
  • The Simple Life Is Simple: Subverted. The work Janie does is exhausting, painful and poorly paid. The other workers aren't much company either.
  • Slut-Shaming: The other locals regard Else, a servant of one of the farmers, as the village bicycle. This is probably a fate that will be inflicted on Janie once she testifies on Luigi's behalf, but that presumably takes place after the story ends.
  • Small Town Boredom: Janie's fed up with her life in the village, but at the end of the film she acknowledges she'll never be able to break away from it.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Luigi lights one up after he and Janie take one last tumble out on the hill.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Janie as she tries to act like everything's fine while she asks Jess about doing some work for the farm steward. She doesn't succeed.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Janie.
  • When She Smiles: Janie lights up when she gets the chance to cut loose a little and dance.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Janie initially rejects Luigi's inept advances, but gives in eventually and they start an affair. Her husband doesn't seem to notice the extent of their relationship.

Alternative Title(s): Another Time Another Place


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