Humphrey Jennings

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[edit] General Information

War Documentary published by Image Entertainment in 2002 - English narration

[edit] Cover

Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Cover.jpg

[edit] Information

Humphrey Jennings's name may be unknown to the general audience today, but he is a fascinating figure in the history of cinema. Not everyone would agree with director Lindsay Anderson's assessment that Jennings was 'the only real poet that British cinema has yet produced', however, few dispute his importance in the development of the documentary form.

Jennings' films are so much a part of the British wartime cinema scene that they cannot be ignored; besides which, they remain the finest cinematic achievements of the World War II period in Britain. Many of the scenes in his masterwork, Fires Were Started (1943), about the horrendous work of London's wartime firemen, are amazing, mouth-opening, agonizing pieces of montage. The sweat, the grime, the burns, the blood, are all horrifyingly real. A horse gallops through the smoke and away from the flames; a fireman dangles from his lifeline after falling from a blazing building. Beams crackle, crack and crash, the heat and the danger blaze intensely from the screen. Above all, the film inspires a feeling of patriotism, as did all Jennings' wartime work.

Poet and painter, Jennings was a master of placing scenes together in a pattern which would have the maximum emotional impact on his audience. The images have worn better than the sounds; the dialogue in these films sometimes seems portentous, even too facile, although it did not appear so at the time. A brilliant scholar, writer and critic, Jennings had joined the famous GPO documentary unit in 1934 as a designer and editor. It was not long before he was making his own very individual short documentary films. After contributing some work on Coal Face (1935), he stepped out on his own with Locomotives (1934), some parts of which anticipate the more famous Night Mail (1936). But the war truly brought out the inspiration in Jennings. Sometimes, as in S.S. Ionian, his images were misplaced, but the pure visual poetry of such films as London Can Take It (1940), Words for Battle (1941), Listen to Britain (1942) and A Diary for Timothy (1945) struck chords in the hearts and minds of the British people that no other film-maker could find. Jennings' films were just as skilled, though slightly less interesting - after all, who could match wartime fervour? - in the post-war years. Jennings fell to his death from a Greek cliff in 1950 while scouting locations for his next film.

NOTE: Documentary or Propaganda? There is no doubt that these films were made as PROPAGANDA pieces to boost morale during WWII and the post-war period. I present them to you for their historical value..

[edit] London Can Take It

This film, in which the American journalist, Quentin Reynolds pays tribute to London and its people under fire, conveys the spirit and atmosphere of the 1940 blitz on the capital. Its impact at the time, especially in U.S.A., makes it historically one of the most important of the war films.

[edit] Words for Battle

Words for Battle evocatively sets to film passages of quotation from poetry and prose including works by: Milton, Blake, Browning and Kipling. The famous "we shall never surrender speech by Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address are also quoted in the Film. It powerfully associates these passages and music by Handel and Beethoven with images of everyday life in Britain at war.

[edit] Listen to Britain

The power of the film is almost entirely in its editing. Cleverly, Jennings and McAllister made the sounds of daily wartime life the central theme of the film. This liberated the narrative from the constraints of conventional storytelling and although it could have simply ended up as a list of scenes, their contrapuntal skill gave the documentary a poignant whispering heroism that made the British appear stoical and dignified as they faced the danger of totalitarianism. Despite the rather clumsy opening sequence telling the audience how to view this innovative documentary, it remains one of the most celebrated - and poetic - films of British spirit during the Second World War.

[edit] Fires Were Started

Filmed in documentary style showing the lives of firemen through the Blitz in World War II. The film uses actual firemen rather than professional actors. This film combines the actuality of documentary (in a recreated or composite and representative event portrayed by people who had actually been involved in such an event) with the narrative line and dramatic heighting of fiction.

Fires Were Started is a dramatised paean to the men and women of the Auxiliary Fire Service made by the Crown Film Unit during W.W.II. It is no gung-ho propaganda piece: it simply records the everyday lives and acts of courage of seven fire-fighters and their new recruit over a fictional 24-hour period. The film begins during the day as the unit gather from their varying walks of life at the fire station, prepare their apparatus, participate in training, inspect the daytime bombing damage caused in London, and socialise together as night begins to fall. The sound of an air-raid siren and anti-aircraft fire signals the beginning of the bombing raid, and promptly the unit is called out to attend to some incendiaries that have fallen on a warehouse. We follow the firemen as they fight the blaze through the night until day breaks and the all-clear sounds.

Also knowns as I Was A Fireman

[edit] A Diary for Timothy

Scripted by E M Forster, the film pictures Britain in the final year of the war, as lived by four representative characters: an engine driver, a farmer, a miner and an injured fighter pilot. Rather than revolving around these characters, the film deploys an associative montage of multifarious images and sounds, ranging freely over the life of the nation, continually connecting macrocosm to microcosm. A concert pianist plays Beethoven at the National Gallery, bombs fall over Germany and Timothy, the baby to whom the story is addressed, yawns in his cot. This is perhaps Jennings' finest film, and one still acclaimed by contemporary documentarists.

[edit] Family Portrait

Meditations on the "English tradition" and achievements through the centuries. Made for the Festival of Britain.

[edit] Screenshots

Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen0.jpg Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen1.jpg Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen2.jpg Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen3.jpg Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen4.jpg Image: Humphrey-Jennings-Screen5.jpg

[edit] Technical Specs

Video Codec: XviD
Video Bitrate: 1504-1643 kbps
Video Resolution: 624x464
Video Aspect Ratio: 1.345:1
Audio Codec: MP3
Audio BitRate: 128 kbps
Audio Streams: 1
Audio Languages: English
RunTime Per Part: See film details
Number Of Parts: 6
Part Size: See film details
Subtitles: NO
Ripped by: Dentje

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