The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Volume 2 - Fires Were Started DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Humphrey Jennings
Produced in 1943
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Contains The Heart of Britain, Words for Battle, Listen to Britain, Fires Were Started and The Silent Village. Simply, some of the very best films ever made in Britain, says Michael Brooke.
The BFI's marvellous Humphrey Jennings survey reaches its middle volume, and the peak of his career. Although it only offers five films (plus alternative cuts) compared with volume one's fifteen, every one is a rock-solid masterpiece.
Indeed, Listen to Britain (1942) and Fires Were Started (1943) are two of the greatest British films ever made, not least because of their complex realisation of what 'Britishness' means. In the first, Jennings and editor Stewart McAllister (his most important creative partner) weave an intricate, commentary-free tapestry of the sounds of Britain in 1942, whether it's bombers flying overhead, heavy industry or Flanagan and Allen. The second (originally the longer I Was a Fireman, also included here) pays tribute not just to the bravery of the fire crews battling the aftermath of the London Blitz, but also their camaraderie: their impromptu performance of 'One man went to mow' as they wait for the sirens to spur them into action reveals more than any number of earnest sociological studies.
Words for Battle (1941) initially seems like flag-waving propaganda, a visual accompaniment to Churchill's 'fight them on the beaches' declaration - which indeed is one of several literary texts read by Laurence Olivier. But it also powerfully evokes just what the British were defending - as does The Heart of Britain (1941), a look at the Blitz from the point of view of its civilian targets that also takes the trouble to separate great German culture (Beethoven, Handel) from its Nazi perversion.
Perhaps the most quietly powerful film of all, The Silent Village (1943) is a heartfelt tribute to the inhabitants of the Czech mining village of Lidice, obliterated by the Nazis in revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Mindful that Czechoslovakia was, in Neville Chamberlain's notoriously dismissive phrase, 'a faraway country of which we know little', Jennings restaged the events in the demographically similar Welsh village of Cwmgiedd. The Nazis take over, initially banning the Welsh language and national songs before the oppression turns lethal. The climactic rendition of 'Land of My Fathers' is one of the most moving moments in British film history.
Michael Brooke on 23rd March 2012
Author of 135 reviews
Widely considered to be one of Britain's greatest filmmakers, Humphrey Jennings has long been celebrated as the director of works which beautifully capture the everyday heroism in times of war and peace. Combining poetic observation and humanism with a subtle yet intense national feeling that is also very personal, Jennings was a visionary and progressive patriot. This second of three volumes collecting together Jennings' entire output gathers 5 films from 1941-1943 and shows Jennings at the pinnacle of his career.
From the rousing call to arms of The Heart of Britain and Words for Battle to the poetic evocation of daily life during wartime in Listen to Britain and the powerfully resonating drama of Fires Were Started and The Silent Village, the films included in this volume offer a lyrical portrait of the nation at war and a moving celebration of Britishness.
Contains: The Heart of Britain (1941), Words for Battle (1941), Listen To Britain (1941), Fires Were Started (1943) and The Silent Village (1943).
Length: 138 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: BFIB1120
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
- 2 discs
- Newly remastered to HD
- All films presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition
- This Is England (1941, 10 mins) - alternative cut of The Heart of Britain
- I Was a Fireman (1943, 74 mins): Jennings' original cut of Fires Were Started
- 40 page illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays, film notes, and biography.
Desert Island Movies 4 films
B.F.I Blu-ray 22 films
Vintage Film & TV of the Year 2012 12 films
Vintage Film & TV of the Year 2012 12 films
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