Wednesday, 4 March 2009
The Poet of Film
Yesterday it was much too cold and wet to do anything on the allotment or go on one of my hikes round London or the North Downs so I settled down to watch a DVD of wartime Humphrey Jennings films. Most people will have seen clips of Jennings films even if they are not familiar with him or his work because much of his footage remains as the iconic imagery of the home front. Jennings was a master film maker and master propagandist as well. Films such as Fires Were Started and A Diary For Timothy were ground breaking for a number of reasons not least for the respectful and serious portrayal of working class people who had previously been relegated to (usually comic) cameo roles. Not only were working people captured sympathetically but so was work itself, for Jennings, who I doubt had ever done a single day of physical work in his life, had a real appreciation for the myriad small skills that join together to form the core of the dignity of labour. All of this is played out against the background of the greatest threat that we had ever faced. The message comes across over and over again. We can get through this. If we stick together we can get through this and when we do there will be no going back to the old ways. We will build a better world. One not based on greed and privilege.
Those of us who were young in the 60s loved to snigger at all this, convinced as we were that we were a part of a new wave that had nothing to do with the post-war settlement or anything that had come before. How cool we were; and how little we understood how much was to be lost in the not to distant future.