The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Volume 3 - A Diary for Timothy DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Humphrey Jennings
Produced in 1944-1951
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
This third and final volume of the BFI's acclaimed Humphrey Jennings collection means that one of British film history's glaring gaps is now definitively filled, writes Michael Brooke.
Summer 2012 unveiled Danny Boyle’s justly celebrated Olympics Opening Ceremony, which Humphrey Jennings fans quickly realised was also a global showcase for the great poet-documentarist’s ideas, such as his ‘Pandaemonium’ portrait of industrial Britain, his co-founding of Mass Observation and his eye for the potent juxtaposition of seemingly disparate material. Volume 3 of his complete films spans 1944-50, when Jennings died following a location-scouting accident: in keeping with its completist remit, the BFI has included The Good Life (1951), the film that he was preparing at the time.
The recurring topics are music and postwar uncertainties. The former is tackled by The True Story of Lili Marlene (1944), the bizarre story of how a song played on German radio as a morale-booster was co-opted by the Allies, by Myra Hess (1945), a Beethoven sonata movement performed by one of the war’s great cultural figures, and by part of The Dim Little Island (1949), a reflection by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, artist Osbert Lancaster, naturalist James Fisher and industrialist John Ormston on Britain’s continuing cultural and global importance in a much-changed postwar landscape.
This was the key theme of Jennings’ last half-decade, expressed most eloquently in the masterly A Diary for Timothy and his Festival of Britain-commissioned swansong Family Portrait (1950), the ‘family’ being the British nation. The Cumberland Story (1947) takes a different angle, examining the history and aftermath of the 1837 Workington mining disaster, while A Defeated People (1946) examines the challenges faced in rehabilitating Germany after total military defeat – a defeat that seemed far from certain at the time of The Eighty Days (1944), when V-1 rockets were being aimed at Britain.
And so concludes the BFI’s survey of Jennings’ films; the hole that was once one of British film history’s glaring gaps now definitively filled.
Michael Brooke on 17th June 2013
Author of 145 reviews
This third and final volume of Humphrey Jennings' films completes the BFI's acclaimed Complete Humphrey Jennings Collection, making available all the films directed by Britain's greatest filmmaker available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The films of Humphrey Jennings have proved hugely influential over the last 60 years - this can be felt in the works of Lindsay Anderson (If....) and more recent filmmakers, such as Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void, Marley). Jennings was also a major influence for Frank Cottrel Boyce and Danny Boyle, whose 2012 Olympics ceremony used Jennings' book, Pandaemonium, as its inspiration.
Volume 3 contains the following films: The True Story of Lili Marlene (1944), The Eighty Days (1944), Myra Hess (1945), A Diary for Timothy (1945), A Defeated People (1946), The Cumberland Story (1947), The Dim Little Island (1949) and Family Portrait (1950).
Length: 213 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
Released: 15th July 2013
Cat No: BFIB1121
- V.1 (1944): a shorter cut of The Eighty Days, made for overseas distribution
- The Good Life (1951): the film Jennings was working on at his death.