(Review originally written at 26 November 2008)

Seems strange that this movie is being listed as a documentary, fore this movie is made as a real movie, with scripted dialog and situations. Nevertheless it still can be seen as a docudrama, which concentrates on the London civilian fire brigade during the bombings of WW II.

The movie gives a real insightful look in this little unknown piece of history. It shows under what circumstances the men and women involved with the fire brigades had to work. It shows the whole organization behind it all and how things got communicated. It of course also shows how the actual fires were being fought by the brave men. Just like most British young men were fighting elsewhere in Europe, these men fought they own wars against the fires in the big cities.

What surprised me was that this movie was not a typical British war time propaganda piece. This is a bit odd, since the production company Crown Film Unit, was a movie-making propaganda arm of the Ministry of Information at its time. It doesn't try to glorify anything and just show things as they are. The movie also doesn't have an annoying all knowing voice-over, who comments and the 'brave' actions and all. The movie is actually pretty straightforward and raw shot. Although everything in this movie is being scripted it still feels all very real. It's a true engaging- and therefore also really powerful and effective movie.

Yes, it's truly being shot as a movie. I was actually quite impressed by some of its camera-work and editing at times, which seemed to be decades ahead of its time in certain sequences! Not that I have ever seen anything else by Humphrey Jennings but I'm definitely interested now to see more by him. Unfortunately he died very young in 1950, when he fell of a cliff while he was scouting for locations in Greece for his new movie. Still a total of 33 directed movies are behind his name, so more than enough stuff to still check out!

A real unique classic within its genre!


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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