John Betjeman: A Passion for Churches DVD
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Directed by Edward Mirzoeff
Produced in 1974
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Contemporary Period, Costume, Historical Film • Contemporary British Film • Documentary Television • Period, Costume & Historical Television • Transport & Travel Television • British Television • Transport & Travel Documentaries • Contemporary British Film
Poet Laureate, writer and broadcaster - or 'poet and hack' as he described himself in Who's Who - John Betjeman here offers a wry but affectionate scrutiny of the churches, clergy and parishioners of Norfolk in a documentary made for the BBC in 1974. Commissioned as a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 1973 documentary Metro-land, the film offers Betjeman's personal poetic record of the goings-on taking place throughout the Anglican Diocese of Norwich and its churches in the run-up to Easter Sunday using the framing device of the Holy sacraments.
Part 1: A Passion for Churches (1974), Part 2: ABC of Churches: Meeting Point Episode 1, Part 3: ABC of Churches: Meeting Point Episode 2, Part 4: Journey to Bethlehem.
Publisher: Simply Media
Length: 155 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 7th November 2011
Cat No: 134018
by Michael Brooke on 12th March 2007
Though he first made his reputation as a poet, John Betjeman (1906-84) was also an extraordinarily prolific television presenter. He first appeared on the box as early... Read on
Though he first made his reputation as a poet, John Betjeman (1906-84) was also an extraordinarily prolific television presenter. He first appeared on the box as early as 1937, when the medium had barely been invented, and from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s his lugubrious tones were constantly featured, whether enthusing about trains and architecture or disparaging the unthinking vandalism of the nation's heritage. By common consent, his television masterpieces date from the mid-1970s, shortly after his elevation to Poet Laureate. Metro-Land is the best known, but these later pieces are just as engaging. A Passion for Churches is an affectionate exploration of the diocese of Norwich, which has more medieval churches than London, York and Bristol put together. Their names gloriously evoke a certain kind of parochial Englishness (Knapton, Trunch, Little Snoring), and Betjeman is particularly good at highlighting small, telling details: the purpose of a triple-decker pulpit, a jewel-encrusted Bible displayed at Sandringham, unsubstantiated rumours of a sponsored streak to raise funds.
Most of Betjeman's television work is peppered with anecdotal asides, but Summoned By Bells swings the spotlight onto himself. On the soundtrack, he reads his famous blank-verse autobiography from 1960, which is illustrated with a mixture of historical footage and newly-staged shots of the poet revisiting the locations he so vividly evokes. An Edwardian childhood in north London (“safe in a world of trains and buttered toast”) leads to WWI adolescence in the Cornish coastal village of Trebetherick, via unrequited schoolboy love for Miss Peggy Purey-Cust, the discovery of English literature at Marlborough, and being forced to find a job after an ignominious sending-down from Oxford.
Notoriously insecure, Betjeman used to write scathing reviews of his own television efforts in an attempt to ward off criticism from others. This clearly worked: his best programmes have a serene timelessness that chimes with his most celebrated
Various (TV), 1962-64
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Various (Documentary), 1951-80
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