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Britten Nocturne [DVD] [NTSC]
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The centenary of Benjamin Britten is marked with a new study by the multi-award-winning director Tony Palmer. It is a dark coda to Palmer's four other Italia Prize winning films with and about Britten, whom many now regard as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.
This extraordinary new film explores Britten's uneasy relationship to the wider world. The bloodiest century in history profoundly affected Britten, not just because he was a committed pacifist, but on a much deeper level. What is the role of the artist in such a troubled world? What are his responsibilities? What is the nature of creativity itself? What is its function? Does it have a function?
Man's inhumanity to Man now, and always. This is the subject matter which preoccupied Britten and that is the subject of this film.
"I have rarely seen such a profoundly troubling film. Palmer is a master, and this is his masterpiece." - Simon Heffer
"Nothing quite prepares us for the ferocity and daring, and the intensely subjective rapture, of Palmer's work that still has to be classified as 'documentary'." - David Thomson, The Biographical Dictionary of Film
I have rarely seen such a profoundly troubling film. Palmer is a master, and this is his masterpiece. --Simon Heffer
The film is deeply powerful, if harrowing. I'll be haunted by its images and the potent use of Britten's music for quite some time, and my depth of understanding of Britten has considerably deepened. It's a work of art in itself. --Victoria Bevan, Albion Media
Nothing quite prepares us for the ferocity and daring, and the intensely subjective rapture, of Palmer's work that still has to be classified as 'documentary'. --David Thomson, The Biographical Dictionary of Film
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Top Customer Reviews
My only criticism of this film is that there is too much exposure of the horrors of the concentration camps when illustrating the War Requiem and the Nocturne. I know people who would instantly switch off because they cannot bear to see such things, and as this footage is used at the very beginning of the film, they could easily not watch the rest of it, which is excellent.
Palmer's earlier documentary, A time there was, concentrates on Britten and is highly recommended, as are the Bridcut documentaries Britten's Children and Britten's Endgame.
Released to celebrate the centenary of Britten’s birth, this additional Tony Palmer film on this composer lasts for 135 minutes. Relying heavily on the music of Britten’s ‘Nocturne’, it focusses on the composer’s brave pacifist stance. With scenes from the two world wars, 1990s Yugoslavia, and recent events in Iraq, Palmer shows us some shocking scenes that perfectly fit Britten’s noble music. The key to understanding Britten’s music, we learn, is that much of it takes a moral point of view.
There is much here that has already been seen before. Palmer goes over a lot that is already contained in other films on Britten – some of them Palmer’s own – with the usual suspects as talking heads. But there is also much that is new, such as the Shostakovich connection, and the organisation of the premier of the ‘War Requiem’. The film features much archive film of Britten and his unmistakable voice is a leading participant.
Palmer adopts his usual and effective method of lighting the orchestral sections and soloists. The film is beautifully shot but could have been better edited. Overall, the film lacks cohesion: is it on Britten the man, Britten the composer, Britten the pacifist, the Nocturne itself? Of course it is all these, but throughout the film we jump from one to the other – his life, his music, his ideals – in a somewhat haphazard way.
Nevertheless, this is often a moving documentary that succeeds in illuminating an essential aspect of Britten’s outlook on the world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating and the usual Tony Palmer masterpiece. Not to be missed.
A must for any music lover and Britten fan
A very good look at Britten through his music. Tony Palmer has made some excellent documentaries, this is one of his best.Published on 30 Sept. 2013 by molloy
Being a hard and fast admirer of Britten this was a joy to watch. Beautifully portrayed here and well produced as I expected it would be.Published on 11 Aug. 2013 by H. J. Kendrick