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The Humphrey Jennings Collection [1942] [DVD]

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Directors: Humphrey Jennings
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Film First
  • DVD Release Date: 25 July 2005
  • Run Time: 184 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009S4EQ4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,159 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

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.

From the Back Cover

Listen to Britain (1942) A sublime documentary of the sights and sounds of Britain in the midst of war. Its 19 seamless minutes 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. Jennings shared the credits for the film with his editor Stewart McAllister.

Diary for Timothy (1945) Set during 1944-45 in a nation so wearied by war that real triumph was impossible, 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.

I was a Fireman (1943) This film, also known as Fires Were Started, about 24 hours in the work of a fire unit during the blitz, should be as iconic to British cinema as Vigo's L'Atlante is to French. Its respect for the stories of ordinary people, its use of non-professional actors and the poetry of its visual connections ushered in a realm of new cinematic possibilities in Britain.

Also featuring - "Humphrey Jennings, The Man who listened to Britain" a documentary from the Oscar-winning director of Touching the Void, Kevin MacDonald, plus a collector's booklet containing an introduction by Lord Puttman CBE and articles by Lindsay Anderson and Joe Mendoza.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Writing in 1954, the film director Lindsay Anderson, thought Humphrey Jennings "the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced." Jennings specialized in documentaries of British life, beginning his career in the GPO film unit. This wonderful Film First DVD features three of his best films: Listen To Britain (1942), Diary for Timothy (1945) and I Was A Fireman (1943), also know as Fires Were Started. Also featured is a brief, but absorbing, documentary by Kevin MacDonald (director of Touching The Void), and a useful booklet about Jennings and his films. The transfers are very good.
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A true poet of cinema, Jennings' three films here are surprisingly wide in scope and purpose. Listen...is an impressionistic little tone poem to what could be lost, perfectly judged, short and introducing all the tree, water and people motifs which unify the three. Timothy is a gentle but steely celebration and meditation on what the future ought to be, and with its references to Marshal Stalin and the Soviet anthem and the miner, farmer, railwayman, mother characters and subtle ironies throughout echoes the best of humanist earlier Soviet film-making. I was a Fireman (or Fires Were Started) (even the title is subtly chosen) is an exciting, believable, tense and tragic piece using an amateur cast of real firemen and women who in 45 minutes or so are a thousand times more convincing as actors and characters than those in a thousand over-blown modern amoral blockbusters. 4 reviews so far show what we have lost as a culture in taste, judgement, literacy and humanity because above all these are rare, moving, personal, universal and true. Humbling.
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The film was recently presented at the Cinematheque in Paris for a debate on Jennings' work, with David Robinson and Elena von Kassel Siambani as debaters, and the participation of Stephen Frears. Stephen Frears' participation was disappointing because he did not say one single piece of his mind about Jennings. But the two other debaters totally missed the point by qualifying Jennings' war films as poetic. That satisfied the nostalgic audience but they completely missed the point. Too bad for our historians. They got lost and satisfied to be lost in the biographical elements and the historical events of the time, as if it were capital to know that Jennings was an aristocrat by birth. When we come across a film, or as for that any work of communication or art, any work produced by human beings, we have to look for the language in the message, the alphabets used to produce the message and the syntax of that message. At once we discover that this Diary for Timothy has little to do with a documentary, as little at least as Oliver Twist. At once we know this diary is not a documentary and that the films Jennings produced that were not connected with the war are different, be it only absolutely boring. The war enable Jennings to jump into a different style, syntax, language, message. A Diary for Timothy is pure fiction aiming at having a political effect on the captive audience of 1944-45 in England. This film is a masterpiece for his time because it invents something that will become the first and foremost medium in human history, television. The first language of the film is dictated by its framing-shooting-editing. Jennings centers his framing and shooting on characters, bodies, at times travelling from foot to head or vice versa, at times giving close-ups of one or two faces.Read more ›
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I had never heard of Humphrey Jennings until very recently while watching a documentary called The Story of Film. In it there was a brief glimpse of a wartime concert by Dame Myra Hess with the Queen Mum in the audience plus other cuts from Jennings' glowing black and white coverage of England during the war.

Now that I have the Collection I can really appreciate Jennings' artistry. The key attraction is that it's the people of England themselves, not actors, who tell the story at the very moment it is happening.
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Takes you back in time to a world view that most of us can't remember.
Jennings was a poet of the screen.
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