I Was A Fireman (Humphrey Jennings Collection) DVD
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Directed by Humphrey Jennings
Produced in 1942-44
Main Language - ENGLISH
Countries & Regions - British Film
19th August 2007 sees the 100th anniversary of Humphrey Jennings' birth. Filmmaker, photographer, poet, painter, Jennings is best known today for his remarkable wartime films – films that utterly transcend their documentary roots and show subtle, poetic connections between places, people and the time through which they were living. The three films on this collection are among the greatest ever produced in England, and thoroughly deserve Lindsay Anderson's memorable accolade that Jennings was perhaps ‘the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced.’ In Listen to Britain he does exactly that – these are the sounds of a nation at war that combine and seem to form a protective shield for the island beneath. I was a Fireman praises the everyday heroism of the members of the Auxiliary Fire service, while Diary for Timothy shows the devastated world to a newborn baby and asks the question that that can be asked of every new life: ‘Are you going to make the world a different place?’
Graeme Hobbs on 12th July 2007
Author of 275 reviews
Features three films from the man described by Lindsay Anderson as perhaps 'the only true poet of the English cinema': Listen to Britain, Diary for Timothy (both from the newly-made BFI 2004 prints) and I Was a Fireman. In Listen to Britain, Jennings collects and edits the sounds and sights of wartime Britain into an extraordinarily moving and effective collage. Diary for Timothy is a film that is relevant for every generation and bears repeated viewings. The feature-length I Was a Fireman, the story of 24 hours in the life of a fire crew during the Blitz, is an innovative work that should be as iconic to British cinema as Vigo's L'Atalante is to French.
Length: 184 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Cat No: FF002X
Format: DVD Colour
- Kevin MacDonald's Humphrey Jennings: The Man Who Listened to Britain (50 mins)
- 12 page collector's booklet with an introduction by David Putnam.
by David Parkinson on 8th July 2005
The films of Humphrey Jennings are invariably cited for their bold combination of lyricism and authenticity. But the Poet of the British Documentary Movement also inve... Read on
The films of Humphrey Jennings are invariably cited for their bold combination of lyricism and authenticity. But the Poet of the British Documentary Movement also invested his work with a political humanism that recognised that the key to winning the Second World War was the indomitable spirit of the British people. Consequently, the three pictures in this long-overdue collection concentrate on ordinary folk doing the extraordinary things in order to emphasise the heroic nature of continuing with everyday life in the face of uncertainty and peril. Released in 1943, I Was a Fireman (aka Fires Were Started) anticipates neo-realism with its creative use of actuality and a non-professional cast that responds to the Blitz with a cheerful courage that's more immediate and effective than any flagwaving dramas being produced at the same time. Similarly, Diary for Timothy (1945), with an accompanying commentary written by E.M. Forster and delivered by Michael Redgrave, celebrates the contribution ordinary citizens have made to the war and will make to the peace. But the masterpiece here is Listen to Britain (1942), which captures the spirit of the nation in a moving visual montage that was assembled with poetic finesse by co-director Stewart McAllister. Hide
by Anon on 6th May 2005
I was first introduced to the work of Humphrey Jennings by the late Lindsey Anderson, and the intervening years have only served to make me increasingly grateful to hi... Read on
I was first introduced to the work of Humphrey Jennings by the late Lindsey Anderson, and the intervening years have only served to make me increasingly grateful to him.
Whether or not there’s still room in the world for the type of visual poet Jennings so brilliantly exemplified is open to question.
Did the artist and the moment in history he recorded simply coincide?
Or were the times themselves the making of the artist?
That’s an argument that can run and run – what’s certain is that once you’ve been exposed to Jennings work, it’s all but impossible to view that particular moment in history through any other lens.
In 1998, when any number of people in Britain were arguing over the most appropriate way to celebrate the Millennium – and the foundations of the Dome were already being dug at Greenwich, I made an eventually forlorn attempt to convince a number of people in and around Government of the unique opportunity that existed to make a clear statement of what type of country Britain wished to be in the twenty first century.
What were its values, and how would it attempt to express them.
I was able to assemble a group of remarkably young ‘decision makers’ and as evidence of what might be possible I showed them two pieces of film.
The first was the final sequence from Close Encounters of a Third Kind with which I wanted to demonstrate the mixture of awe and wonder which propels the character played by Francois Trauffaut into the spaceship.
The fact that his desire to know what the future might offer conquered his fear seemed to me a perfect metaphor for the best way in which to address our nation’s future.
I then showed them Jenning’s ‘Listen to Britain’. At first they couldn’t make it out, some even laughed rather uneasily. But after about four or five minutes the mood changed. There was no more laughter, the editing seemed less ponderous and the film began to work its magic.
Most telling was the fact that when it finished, after what seemed a longish silence, among barrage of questions nobody asked ‘why had they been shown it’. They all understood the context, and they all made the connection.
So it was sad when it proved impossible to translate their understanding into a commitment to do for the citizens of the twenty-first century what Jennings had done for their Grandparents, fifty years earlier – remind them of why they were on the planet, the job that remained to be done, and the fact that it mattered.
I owe Humphrey Jennings an enormous debt – you don’t have to look very hard to find his influence in Chariots of Fire, Local Hero and The Killing Fields. Not in their narrative, not in their Cinematic style, but in the underlying values to which all three movies subscribe.
Watch the work of Humphrey Jennings and experience what it is to believe in something much, much bigger than you are.
It’s a really wonderful feeling.
by Graeme Hobbs on 6th May 2005
For the three films included on this collection, the term ‘documentary’ is clearly inadequate. Listen to Britain is a sublime composition of the sights and sounds of B... Read on
For the three films included on this collection, the term ‘documentary’ is clearly inadequate. Listen to Britain is a sublime composition of the sights and sounds of Britain in the midst of war. Its seamless sequence of images and sounds can be watched time and again for its beauty, connections and the economy with which it tells vast stories of the human spirit. Diary for Timothy is set during 1944-45 in a nation utterly wearied by war, and this film diary for a newborn baby shows the world around him at that moment. There is a deep humanity here – Michael Redgrave captures the tone of E.M. Forster’s commentary perfectly, and its final sequence is one of the most moving in all cinema. Finally, I Was A Fireman, about 24 hours in the work of a Fire Unit during the Blitz, should be as iconic to British cinema as Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante is to the French. In its respect for the stories of ordinary people, its use of non-professional actors and the poetry of its visual connections, it ushered in a realm of new cinematic possibilities in Britain. Hide