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Humphrey Jennings$

Keith Beattie

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719078552

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719078552.001.0001

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Sound, image and nation: Words for Battle and Listen to Britain

Sound, image and nation: Words for Battle and Listen to Britain

(p.47) 3 Sound, image and nation: Words for Battle and Listen to Britain
Humphrey Jennings

Keith Beattie

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The connection between national identity and the experience of war forces a question relevant to all home-front accounts of World War II: how to adequately portray a nation at war? That is the question which centrally motivated Humphrey Jennings' films Words for Battle (1941) and Listen to Britain (1942). This chapter explains how, in addressing this question, Jennings constructed representations that departed radically from extant practices characteristic of the nonfictional forms of newsreels. It discusses the way Jennings utilised the elements such as sound, image and nation in those films. In Words for Battle, Jennings uses extracts from literature and other texts as the basis of a commentary that cues images which expand the meanings and metaphorical connotations inherent in the texts. In Listen to Britain, the commentary is replaced by the masterful juxtaposition of sounds and images as the vehicle for narrative.

Keywords:   sound, image, nation, Words for Battle, Listen to Britain

George Orwell's Blitz-inspired ruminations on the conditions of the ‘English character’ in his essay ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ (1941) are prefaced by a pervasive anxiety of terror from the skies: ‘As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me’.1 The connection in his depiction between national identity and the experience of war – and the essay form of that representation – forces a question relevant to all home-front accounts of World War II: how to adequately portray a nation at war? The question centrally motivates Words for Battle (1941) and Listen to Britain (1942), and in addressing this question Jennings constructed representations which departed radically from extant practices characteristic of the nonfictional forms of newsreels.

An attempt to revise the depictions of war in newsreels informs London Can Take It!, a film produced at the beginning of the Blitz in September 1940 by the GPO Film Unit, with input from Jennings. The film's chief director, Harry Watt, charged Jack Beddington, head of the Films Division within the Ministry of Information (who in this role oversaw the transformation of the GPO Film Unit into the Crown Film Unit in October 1940), with giving preferential treatment to newsreel production. Beddington, according to Watt, was keen to be ‘in with the newsreels’.2 It was Beddington's position that ‘the newsreels were very important for propaganda and so on’.3 The first director of the Ministry of Information Films Division, Joseph Ball, had earlier decided that newsreels would constitute the central feature of British wartime film propaganda.4 In line with this policy, Beddington and Sidney Bernstein of the Granada cinema chain, and an important honorary adviser to the Films Division, were supportive of a proposal by G.B. News to produce a short for American distribution on the effects of the Blitz on London, to be compiled from newsreel footage.5 Watt, who in his own words ‘felt pretty superior to the newsreels’, suggested to Beddington and (p.48) Bernstein that the newly formed Crown Film Unit make the film, an idea which Beddington eventually accepted.6

Watt objected to the way in which newsreel footage focused maximally on devastation. According to Watt, ‘This wasn’t the cameraman's fault. He wasn’t making propaganda, but just showing the facts the best way he could. But the two hours of [newsreel] film I saw [prior to making London Can Take It!] would have convinced anyone that the whole of London was completely flattened’.7 Jennings felt that while newsreels could depict a historical event, or fortuitously capture a newsworthy issue as it was unfolding, they failed to offer any contextualisation of events.8 For Jennings a crucial difference between news-reels and documentary films was one of focus and emphasis. Jennings argued that newsreels are concerned with depicting the event in certain accepted ways, with little thought to ‘set up’. Speaking on behalf of documentary filmmakers he argued that ‘we are … in a position, when shooting a scene, to take greater pains to think of the background and the ideas which have produced the scene we are photographing … Our business is to say that the background in this street is not exactly right, that the event would be better presented in a slightly smarter street or a slightly dingier street, or if it were shot in a better light. The news-reel man cannot choose in that way, whereas we have to’.9 Jennings’ notions of selectivity and emphasis connect with Watt's approach to ‘making propaganda’, the basis of Watt's distinction between newsreels and documentary film.10

In keeping with the practice of making propaganda, Watt, in association with Jennings and the editor Stewart McAllister, sought to depict the fortitude displayed by Londoners in the face of massive aerial bombardment. Joe Mendoza, who worked as an assistant editor within both the GPO Film Unit and the Crown Film Unit, remembered making London Can Take It!:

The film was in two parts. The first part Harry directed, and the second part Humphrey and McAllister directed … It was designed for [the well-known American journalist] Quentin Reynolds, who was due to go to New York in a fortnight. The idea was that he would take [the film] to New York under his arm, and this is what happened. And the film, when it was shown in New York, was such a success that the [Ministry of Information] thought, we’ve got something here which is much more significant than we reckoned – it's not just making advertising films for the Post Office. Because the general feeling was that Britain really wouldn’t last two or three weeks after the Blitz began, that London was being destroyed and we were pretty much finished – that was the feeling the Germans were trying to put over. So London Can Take It was really quite an important piece of propaganda.11

(p.49) London Can Take It! was shot over two weeks and depicts conditions in the capital during the winter following the Battle of Britain. The film opens with a shot of St Paul's cathedral, after which Reynolds’ introduces himself, ‘speaking from London’, over shots of people heading home after a day's work. As darkness approaches preparations are made for another night's air attack. As if on cue, German bombers appear in the sky and ground-based anti-aircraft guns commence firing. Bombs descend on London, as inside air-raid shelters people attempt to sleep. With the new day sirens announce the end of the raid, and people head to work amid the bomb damage. The Queen visits a bombed site, and workmen clear the streets of rubble. The tenor of the film then changes, moving from images of fortitude to images of retaliation. A headline scribbled in chalk on a board by a newspaper vendor announces that Berlin has been bombed, followed by images of an RAF bomber being loaded with munitions, and taking off on a mission. Reynolds’ commentary continues to celebrate London's resolve – ‘a bomb has its limitations, it can only destroy buildings and kill people. It cannot kill the unconquerable spirit and courage of the people of London’. A jaunty Civil Defence man cadges a cigarette from a passing milk van on his way home, and the final shot is of a statue near Westminster Palace of Richard I, appearing appropriately aggressive with sword raised. Reynolds’ final words announce that ‘London can take it!’

Despite the collaborative process involved in the making of the film – Watt working with Jennings, who for the first time was assisted by Stewart McAllister as editor – the original impetus for its production was Watt's desire to move away from newsreel coverage. It is ironic, then, that London Can Take It! is similar in a number of ways to newsreel journalism. Reynolds, a print journalist for the US news magazine Collier's, provides a voice-over which, with American audiences in mind, resembles certain tones and emphases (and accent) of the narration by Westbrook Van Voorhis for the US newsreel series The March of Time (1935–51). Beyond the voice-over, London Can Take It! is composed of a series of ‘sights’ or views of war-ravaged London which are not dissimilar to those of newsreel or photojournalistic practice (for example, shots of smashed windows on Oxford Street are reminiscent of George Rodger's press photographs of the same war-torn scene12). Jennings subsequently largely abandoned features of newsreels such as a stentorian voice-over and a journalistic observation of sensational scenes within a radical revision of documentary forms. (p.50)

Heart of Britain

In order to dispel the suggestion implicit in London Can Take It! that the war was felt only in the capital, another film was conceived as its counterpart to highlight the effects of the war in the North. Jennings described the new project, still at the time titled Backbone of Britain, as a ‘kind of Spare Time assignment’, thereby stressing the focus shared by the two films on northern locales and cities such as Manchester.13 The completed film, renamed in a twist of anatomical reference to Heart of Britain (1941), opens with the sounds of Elgar and shots of rural regions (including Yorkshire, Derbyshire and the Lakes District). Interestingly, the narrative soon eschews allusions to the rural myth associated with such bucolic scenes and turns to a construction of industrial and urban centres as the true ‘heart’ of the nation.

In such a centre George Good, a furnace worker in Sheffield, talks directly to the camera of his daily routine, which involves a shift in the factory followed by service as an air-raid warden. Scenes in Lancashire depict readiness for air attack, and female workers from the cotton mills play games in an air-raid shelter. In Manchester Malcolm Sargent conducts the Hallé Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which continues to play as the sequence shifts to include scenes of the bombed streets of Coventry. Here among the wreckage a member of the Women's Volunteer Service addresses the camera and speaks of her attempts to assist those injured in air raids and her feelings of helplessness and distress as she hands out cups of tea as members of the ARP remove corpses from the rubble. She adds, relieving the tension of the word picture, that she is often praised by those she helps for a cup of tea that ‘washes the blood and dust out of my mouth’. In the final sequence the Huddersfield Choir sings the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel's Messiah, and the scene depicts the ruined centre of Coventry and the bombed cathedral. As the narrator talks of the people's resistance and the ‘power to hit back’ a cut depicts the interior of an aircraft factory, with workers assembling bombers. While the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ swells on the soundtrack a Whitley bomber takes off at dusk on its way to attack the enemy. The final shot of the film is a return to the rural scenes of the film's opening.

The structural core of the film is the sequence filmed in Coventry. The devastating raid on the city on the night of 14–15 November 1940 led to a change in plans for the film. Prior to the raid of mid–November, which destroyed the cathedral, Jennings and his crew had filmed footage of air-raid damage in the city. He returned after the massive raid to shoot scenes of the devastation and the rescue work being conducted in the (p.51) wake of the attack. As a result, Coventry displaced the other locations as the geographical and moral focus of the film, with the raid on the city serving as the point at which the narrative leads to – and justifies – the argument of the propaganda of the film's ending. The reworked film that stemmed from the raid on Coventry also incorporated an increased use of music, with the effect that music becomes, together with the focus on Coventry, a central structuring device for the film.14 From the opening refrains of Elgar to the closing rendition of Handel, music – and references in the commentary to music and singing, and the partial displacement of commentary by music – serves as a theme, or notation, running throughout the film. The effect presages the rigorous integration of sound and image subsequently achieved in Words for Battle and Listen to Britain.

The Documentary News Letter, however, disliked what it called the ‘usual defensive commentary’ used for Heart of Britain.15 The reviewer for the journal criticised what was interpreted as redundant comments used to reinforce the meaning of images.16 The commentary delivered by J. B. (Jack) Holmes, taking time out from his own filmmaking, is in places patronising and it is difficult to dispute the criticism that not all scenes require an obvious and over-stated explanation.17 In his following film, Words for Battle, Jennings would use extracts from literature and other texts as the basis of a commentary that cues images which expand the meanings and metaphorical connotations inherent in the texts. In Listen to Britain the commentary is replaced by the masterful juxtaposition of sounds and images as the vehicle for narrative. The problems inherent in the commentary of Heart of Britain are pronounced in the final voice-over, the most blatant piece of propaganda in all of Jennings’ films. The ending of the film suffers as a result of its propagandistic aims from an emptying of metaphor. As the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ sung by the Huddersfield Choir surges on the soundtrack the narrator states: ‘People who sing like that in times like these cannot be beaten. These people are slow to anger, not easily roused … But these people have the power to hit back – and they are going to hit back, with all the skill of their hands, the tradition of their crafts, and the fire in their hearts’. A Whitley bomber takes off, the scene changes from Coventry to a rural landscape, and the commentary continues with a grim warning: ‘Out of the valleys of power and the rivers of industry will come the answer to the German challenge – and the Nazis will learn, once and for all, that no one with impunity troubles the heart of Britain’.

In the final scenes and the accompanying commentary the rich meanings and the potential for productive ambiguities inherent in the ‘heart of Britain’ – a phrase informed by the variety of connotations (p.52) derived from the rural myth, and expanded in the film through reference to the cities of the Midlands and the North to encompass geographical and other allusions to the core of a nation's ‘character’ – are reduced in the film's ending to ‘military might’ which will avenge the Coventry raids. In his use of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ in the closing shots Jennings was accused by members of the documentary movement of ‘going religious’.18 In reply Jennings decried what he interpreted as overblown Griersonian notions of ‘pure documentary’.19 Ironically, in the matching of words and images in the final scenes of Heart of Britain, Jennings replicates the didactic expository methods of numerous Griersonian documentaries. The success of the film's move away from Griersonian documentary resides in Jennings’ use of music as a narrative device which embodies the potential to inform images with emotional and referential resonances and meanings. In these terms Heart of Britain was a precursor to the far more elaborate, sophisticated and subtle approaches to the question of ‘how to represent a nation at war?’ undertaken in the reworking of commentary in the words and images of Words for Battle and the complex relationship of sounds and images in Listen to Britain.

Words for Battle: ‘In England Now’

In August 1940 the head producer of the GPO Film Unit, Alberto Cavalcanti, who had been so influential in Jennings’ career up to that point, left the Unit to join Michael Balcon at Ealing Studios. Cavalcanti was replaced that month as supervisor of the Unit by Ian Dalrymple, who, as a film editor early in the 1930s, had maintained strong links with Balcon, then at Gaumont-British studios. Jennings struck an immediate friendship with the unassuming ‘Dal’. Dalrymple, who reported to Jack Beddington in the Ministry of Information Films Division, was responsible for the practical arrangements associated with the establishment of the new Crown Film Unit.20 It was through Dalrymple's activities in this area that the new Unit was able to relocate from its small and ill-equipped facilities in central London to Denham Studios and then to Pinewood Studios, where it had access to wider resources, including a fully equipped sound stage. Within its new quarters the Crown Film Unit ‘was the single most important source of wartime documentary film production’, even though ‘in terms of numbers its output represented little more than 5 per cent of the 1400 or so official documentaries that were produced during the war’.21 Audience exposure to documentary films was increased during the war when, as (p.53) of the summer of 1940, cinemas reluctantly accepted a proposal from the Ministry of Information to screen short official films.22 Words for Battle was included in this scheme.

The working title of the production that became Words for Battle was ‘In England Now’, a work which was conceived as a companion to a film to be called ‘In Germany Now’. The second film was to include quotations from Goethe, Schiller and Heine, among other German authors and poets, which would be used contrapuntally with contemporary images of Nazi Germany culled from sources such as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1936). In contrast to the planned opposition of word and image in the companion film, a draft treatment of ‘In England Now’ demonstrates that, as with Words for Battle, extracts from stirring well-known poems and political speeches were to be used in a complementary and mutually enforcing way. An early treatment of ‘In England Now’ includes reference to extracts from Milton, Blake, Shelley, Browning, Kipling, Churchill and Lincoln, to be used in association with images of Britain at war.23 A shooting script of ‘In England Now’ follows this general outline, opening with a spoken commentary: ‘Among the most precious memorials of England, now nightly threatened by fire-bombs, is Westminster Abbey. Here lie the tombs … of kings and queens, the statues of statesmen, the monuments of ancient victory … [H]ere too the much humbler shrines of English poetry’.24 The commentary introduces Milton, whose words are to be spoken in the second sequence, accompanied by images of the countryside and other locations. The fourth sequence of the treatment – featuring extracts from Shelley's radical poem ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ and images of a man ploughing, factory work, an AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) man, RAF recruits and soldiers marching – does not appear in Words for Battle. (Shelley's call to revolutionary arms may have been deemed by the Ministry of Information as inappropriate to the current military situation.) The treatment is a general outline of shots, with reference to some of the source footage to be included in the film, including close-ups from Triumph of the Will, footage of evacuated children shot by Arthur Elton, together with newsreel and Army footage. The outline includes eight sequences, which would have resulted in a film shorter than the brief eight minutes of Words for Battle.

The final edited version of the script incorporates certain of these elements within an expanded work which includes extracts from William Camden's Britannia (1588), Milton's Areopagitica, Blake's ‘Jerusalem’, Robert Browning's ‘Home-Thoughts, from the Sea’, Kipling's ‘The Beginnings’, Churchill's ‘We shall never surrender’ speech of 4 June 1940, and Lincoln's ‘Gettysburg Address’. The selected passages (p.54) are supported and interpreted by images recycled from a range of sources, together with footage shot specifically for the film. In certain scenes images ‘introduce’ the commentary – for example, a shot of a bust of Milton appears prior to Milton's words – and in other scenes the commentary links, and narrativises, the images – as in Churchill's ‘Fight on the beaches’ speech, which threads together images as varied as shots of mending a city street and footage of ANZAC troops. In his reference to the film Dai Vaughan is critical of aspects of the editorial relationship of word and image. For Vaughan the complementary association of word and image is, in a number of cases, overly literal or inappropriate in terms of the metaphorical intent of the quoted poetry.

Thus Milton may liken the nation's spirit to an eagle, drawing upon the metaphorical associations of splendour, sovereignty and soaring flight; and a Hurricane may be likened to an eagle in its physical grace and in the similarity whereby it swoops upon its enemy out of the sun: but to set the Milton quotation against shots of Hurricanes is not to enrich the symbolism but – since the similes are of radically different kinds – to confuse it.25

Vaughan cites other examples, and criticises the alignment of Blake's reference to building Jerusalem in England with shots of children in a wood, ‘where the effect can only be to limit rather than expand the sense. Likewise, to set the line “ … full in face Trafalgar lay” over a cut to a fullface shot of Nelson can do neither words nor images any good’.26 Indeed, the matching of images of waves on a shoreline with Churchill's words, ‘we shall fight them on the beaches’, is banal. However, while in certain places the relationship of word and image may result in simplistic associations, to reduce the film to such moments is to overlook or deny the overall effect of a subtle arrangement of elements. In this way Words for Battle constructs its object – ‘Britain at war’ – within a dense interaction of temporality and spatiality.

The temporal axis

A temporal dimension, a meeting of the past and the present, is achieved in the film through a presentation of extracts from texts (which, with the exception of Lincoln's words, are chronologically arranged in order of the authors’ dates of birth) associated with the iconography of war.27 The effect of the selection of texts is to move chronologically through a literary and cultural heritage and thus through time. Simultaneously, the emphasis in the quotations on a fighting, heroic heritage in effect constructs aspects of national identity which, in the totality (p.55) of components, suggest a staunchly democratic people steadfast in a green and pleasant land against an aggressive enemy. Thus, through the application of a simple temporal device Words for Battle performs part of the complex ideological work of evoking a unified nation.

The simplicity and utility of the effect in Words for Battle is underlined through reference to David Macdonald's This England, a fiction film released the same year as Jennings’ film. This England (also known as Our Heritage) seeks to evoke a unified nation through a temporal structure of episodes presented in chronological order from a past to the present. Macdonald's film opens with a poem in which the ‘autumn mists’, ‘brambleberry flame’ and ‘tangled, rain-soaked grass’ of an ‘old, old earth’ predate human habitation. According to the poem ‘the earth of England’ has existed throughout a ‘time out of mind’. The poem situates ‘the past’ within the terms of the rural myth which, in turn, contextualises the subsequent action. The rural myth and its temporal associations are deployed in the opening narration, which emphasises the place of rural life and work within the history of the nation: ‘This England, among whose hills and valleys since the beginning of time have stood old farms and villages. The story of the Rookebys’ farm and the village of Clevely is the story of them all’. The film, with its ‘air of a glorified village pageant’, traces the experiences of the Rookeby family of farmers (all played by John Clements) and the Appleyard family of farm workers (all played by Emlyn Williams) across various generations, stressing four key moments of adversity and war: the Norman conquest, the Spanish armada, the Napoleonic wars and World War I.28 A naïve American journalist (Constance Cummings) visiting Clevely is the device through which Rookeby and Appleyard narrate each event as a way of informing her of the wars endured by their ancestors in defence of their land. The film ends with Rookeby reciting the ‘This England’ soliloquy from Shakespeare's Richard II.

While most critics would probably agree with Jeffrey Richards that ‘This England was not a very good film’, James Chapman argues that the film ‘is significant in so far as it represents the first attempt during the war to mobilise the past in order to address social divisions and to promote the need for social unity’.29 Contradicting Chapman's claim is the fact that Jennings’ film (which was filmed during the Blitz in the autumn of 1940) was released prior to This England, thereby making Words for Battle the first wartime film to rely on the past to promote national unity, and it does so in ways which are infinitely more subtle than the array of plot and narrative devices deployed in Macdonald's film. Such devices within This England include an introductory commentary, the presence of the character of a journalist to function as (p.56) the butt of the storytelling by Rookeby and Appleyard, various characters from the Rookeby and Appleyard clans who narrate their yarns, and a series of ‘historical’ highlights.

In contrast, the narrative techniques of Words for Battle are minimal and effective. The film's narrative economy is exemplified within the inclusion of a sixteenth-century map of the nation, from Camden's Britannia, in the opening frames of the film. The nation – the critical focus of the film – is established at the outset through the map's figurative representation. Details of the nation are provided through the voice-over, eloquently spoken by Laurence Olivier, who reads a description of the landscape from Britannia. Thus the old map foregrounds the concept of a historical (temporally grounded) nation and establishes a visual basis of the film's evocation of the past to complement the aurally based temporality constructed in and through the progression of spoken extracts. In these ways the sixteenth-century nation depicted by the map is the point of origin of references to national characteristics which, when accumulated, constitute the present nation in its time of war.

The spatial axis

The map is also a spatial representation of nation. Indeed, extending and informing the temporal axis is an extensively constructed spatial axis to the narrative, which further specifies and ‘grounds’ the concept of a unified nation. In doing so, Words for Battle effectively constructs a narrative of nation which, as with any narrative, is based in time and space. A testy, anonymous review of Words for Battle in the Documentary News Letter at the time of the film's release failed to recognise the film's form of narrativisation; in fact it failed to detect any trace of narrative in its reference to the film as ‘an illustrated lantern-slide lecture’.30 In other ways analyses of forms of narrativisation in documentary have tended to feature only one component of the temporality/spatiality couplet. For example, Brian Winston's detailed explication of the formal features of British documentaries of the 1930s and 1940s emphasises ‘chronologic’, the temporal basis of narrative.31 Complementing such an analysis is the presence within narrative of a ‘spatial logic’ (spatiologic, perhaps), which is as central as the slight ‘chronologic’, if not more so, to the construction of narrative in Words for Battle. Recognising what is a complex ‘spatiologic’ operative in Words for Battle points to a sophisticated form of narrativisation in a film which Winston criticises as lacking a narrative trajectory.32

(p.57) In a related way Dai Vaughan concludes from his study of the editorial relationship of image and what he considers to be rarefied words within each shot and scene, that there is ‘very little scope for visual manoeuvre’ in the film.33 In other words, the language of the selected texts imposes limitations on the range of images and associated narrative emphases that can be used in the film. However, looking beyond the narrow focus of particular shots to the combined seven sections of the film it can be noted that Jennings and the editor McAllister do establish room (or space) to visually manoeuvre within the narrative, primarily in a reworking of the wartime tropes of ‘looking up’ and ‘looking down’, and in the productive ambiguity which is established in the relationship of countryside and city. The ambiguity is resolved in an outcome that suggests the emergence from war of a new, rebuilt and reinvigorated nation.

Looking up and looking down

In the terms set out here, Words for Battle is organised according to the lines of a dramatic narrative structure with the citizens of Britain as the protagonists. The film opens with a scene of (rural) stability, which is dramatically interrupted (by the presence of war), though in turn the disruption is resolved (or at least addressed, by the protagonists’ heroism and fortitude), to end in a satisfying conclusion (that looks to a better future for the nation).34 Within the film's narrative progression the temporal and spatial dimensions – or axes – inform each other, often in direct ways, as in the image of the map, its historically based temporality complemented and extended through its function as a marker of geographical space.

The markers of geographical space are extended within a revision of images of citizens and military personnel looking to the skies. The image appears in the second section of the film; against Milton's words from Areopagitica (‘Methinks I see her as an Eagle … ’), members of an RAF ground crew scan the skies. The image of ‘looking up’ functioned as a central representational form of the Blitz. As John Taylor notes, ‘such imagery represents a wartime “new line of sight” of vigilance, resilience and optimism, eyes looking not only for potential bombs and death but into a brighter future’.35 Images of figures looking to the skies featured prominently in films and print publications of the era, including the cover of the Picture Post for 23 September 1944, which featured an image of a mother and her small son looking skyward through the window of a cosy cottage, used to accompany a story on the (p.58) home-front effects of the war.36 The notion of a brighter future encoded in ‘looking up’ was evident even in the early years of the war, as demonstrated by Jennings and Watt in London Can Take It!. A scene halfway through the film depicts the morning after an air raid and includes a woman with wavy Jane Morris, pre-Raphaelite hair looking out and upwards from a window with a broken pane, as the voice-over states that ‘London looks upwards towards the dawn’.37 The notion of a peaceful future inherent in the image addressed, if not to a degree assuaged, the anxiety of the early war years associated with a sky perpetually filled with enemy aircraft.

The image of ‘looking up’ had as its corollary aerial shots of the landscape, the perspective of ‘looking down’. The device was popularised in wartime Britain in news magazines and newsreels through reference to aerial shots of targets. The currency of such a device led the Picture Post in May 1943 to publish a number of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of an Allied bombing raid under the title, ‘How to Interpret an Aerial Photograph’.38 In Triumph of the Will, a film Jennings knew well, Riefenstahl used the ‘looking down’ image to heroise Hitler, as he descends god-like through the clouds in his aeroplane to the adoration of the German military amassed at Nuremberg. In contrast to Riefenstahl's deployment of the ‘looking down’ shot in the service of Hitler and a militarised Germany, Jennings uses the technique in Words for Battle to provide an opening aerial shot of clouds and long shots of the English landscape, from where the camera moves into close contact with local civilians. In this way the shot is a variant of the ‘pan in from the top of that hill’ shot at the beginning of Spare Time. Jennings’ ‘looking down’, unlike the use of the landscape in aerial bombing photographs or in Riefenstahl's film, depicts the landscapes of city and countryside, though in places war-torn, as accommodating as the skies from which the perspective was filmed. The evocation of the nation resulting from such spatial perspectives and orientations is extended within the film's mobilisation of a spatial dialectic of city and country.

The city and the country

Each of the seven sections of Words for Battle encompasses a representation of a range of environments which feature urban and rural landscapes. The opening section depicts rural scenes. Westminster Abbey opens the second section, which includes an aerial shot of urban and rural locales. The third section links city and country as it follows children evacuated from London to the countryside. The fourth section (p.59) (with words from Kipling's ‘The Beginnings’) depicts a war-damaged London. The fifth section serves as an interlude from the landscapes of Britain and replaces urban and rural scenes with shots of the Mediterranean Sea (against words from Browning's ‘Home-Thoughts, from the Sea’). The sixth section (accompanied in part by Lincoln's ‘Gettysburg Address’) returns to a focus on London, and the film ends with images of city streets filled with military personnel. Myths of city and country are at play in these scenes, though through the informing presence of ambiguity, the film refuses the limited meanings inscribed in such myths.

In this way, a productive ambiguity is present within the first three sections of the film. The opening section encodes many of the foundational meanings of the rural idyll or myth: the countryside as a site of tranquillity, community and stability. Against such a presence the second section introduces the city – London's streets and Westminster Abbey – which, via shots of fighter planes, is associated with war. The notion of a ‘dangerous city’ that emerges from this association is enlarged in images of the evacuation of children from the city to the safety of the countryside. The following scenes – of children at play in their rural haven – reinforce allusions within the rural myth to the countryside as an ‘accommodating’ place of safety and peace. However, meanings opened in these scenes cannot be reduced or contained by the common inscription of a rural myth. The evacuation of the city during wartime points to a return to the city once peace has been restored. The future evoked through such associations is further intimated through the fact that the evacuees are children, the nation's future. The scenes, then, refuse a retreat into the past commonly associated with the rural myth (the countryside as site of the values and features of ‘yesteryear’). In these terms the countryside is both (temporary) refuge from contemporary experiences and a site that augurs the future.

In a similar way meanings ascribed to the city in wartime are rendered ambiguous, and through that ambiguity are resolved, within a potent appeal to the nation's victorious future. Sections five, six and seven (accompanied in turn by extracts from the words of Kipling, Churchill and Lincoln) simultaneously establish the city as a place of destruction and death and a site of rebuilding, renewal and future order. The former meanings are openly represented in images of destroyed houses, the removal of a body on a stretcher from the rubble of a bombed house, and shots of a hearse moving in procession along a bombed street. These scenes carry an undeniable emotional power and to achieve this effect Jennings was willing to contravene an earlier proscription in wartime imagery on the representation of death to (p.60) suggest the extent of destruction and suffering experienced during the Blitz.39 However, the effect of these images is superseded by another set of meanings – those associated with regeneration – which pervasively evoke the nation's path.

Signs of rebuilding are apparent in the sixth section, which is accompanied by Churchill's words and which includes a shot of a team of workers repairing a bomb-damaged footpath, which in terms of the theme of renewal is followed by the more significant shot of St Paul's cathedral looming above the rubble. Photojournalism played a major role in situating the cathedral within the public imagination in specific ways. The archive of such images includes Bill Brandt's photograph, ‘St Paul's Cathedral in the Moonlight’ (1940), which features the cathedral in stark silhouette against rubble in the foreground, Cecil Beaton's image of smoke encircling the cathedral's bell towers after an incendiary raid on London on 29 December 1940, and George Rodger's deep-focus photograph of Fleet Street with a news seller in the foreground (‘Latest From All Battlefronts’) and St Paul's aloof and stately in the background.40 In each of these images St Paul's is deployed as an indication of the damage inflicted by the enemy, and via its ‘eternal’ (seemingly indestructible) nature functions as a symbol of home-front fortitude and hope. Such meanings were informed within what the front page of the Daily Mail newspaper of 29 December 1940 called ‘War's greatest picture’: a photograph of the cathedral wreathed in flames and smoke, the effects of the same air raid depicted in Beaton's photograph. The Daily Mail printed comments by the photographer, H. A. Mason, which add another layer of meaning to the image: ‘I focused at intervals as the great dome loomed up through the smoke. Glares of many fires sweeping clouds of smoke kept hiding the shape. Then a wind sprang up. Suddenly, the shining cross, dome and towers stood out like a symbol in the inferno. The scene was unbelievable. In that moment or two I released my shutter’.41 Mason's account echoes descriptions from the Judaeo-Christian tradition of apocalypse and the site of final judgement, references which were overt in the commentary of a live BBC radio broadcast of the London raids of 7 September 1940: ‘The flames are leaping up in the air now. St. Paul's, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, is silhouetted blackly against it … The smoke is going up very slowly now and it's just illuminated faintly. It's almost like the Days of Judgment as pictured in some of the old books’.42 Allusions to an infernal end of the world gave way to other meanings evoked via the image of St Paul's as a symbol of Britain's indomitable spirit and a people's resistance to the Nazi onslaught. In this set of meanings St Paul's features as the cornerstone of the People's War and is expressive (p.61) of the stance that ‘London can take it’. The position, circulated in Jennings’ film of that name, is extended and highlighted in Words for Battle in a shot of St Paul's, which is accompanied by Churchill's declaration that ‘We shall never surrender’.

The emphasis on a people's perseverance connects in Words for Battle with the notion of national renewal, a concept reinforced within the evocation of a ‘new world’; a condition variously alluded to in the film. The effect of the deletion from the film's draft script of an extract from Shelley's poem ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ was to deny any suggestion that the new world to come would be the result of social revolution. Within the film a ‘new world’ is evoked in the sixth section within images of British allies from Australia and New Zealand, and more readily in Churchill's reference to the New World of the US, which will enter the war and come to Britain's aid. From such allusions to the New World the notion of a post-war ‘new world’ is evoked in the form of a rebuilt, regenerated and unified British nation. This emergent condition – a future social landscape – ties together the temporal and spatial axes as the rhetorical focus of the film. The result of the film's productive ambiguities produced within and through the meeting of temporal and spatial features is an ‘extraordinary bravura’ work.43 Jennings would exceed this achievement in Listen to Britain.

Listen to Britain: collaboration and collage

The question Jennings addressed in Listen to Britain was the same as that taken up in Words for Battle: how to depict a nation at war? The question involves a historical trauma which threatened to exceed many of the extant forms of representation. In the case of Listen to Britain, as with Words for Battle, the question implicates the role of narrative structure. The temporal and spatial features of the slight narrative of Listen to Britain are informed by a range of formal influences, including that of avant-gardist ‘city symphonies’ of the 1920s. More particularly, the central structural features through which Listen to Britain effectively represents the nation at war derive from a revision of the expanded application of the sonic and visual capacities of documentary film.

Listen to Britain began in the spring of 1941 as a script idea dealing with military music (the draft was tentatively titled ‘Men on the March’).44 By mid-1941, by which time the filming of scenes had commenced, the working script (titled in places ‘Tin Hat Concerto’) was focused on a lunch-time performance of Mozart in the National Gallery.45 Filming recommenced in August and continued until October 1941 using an (p.62) expanded treatment of the ‘Tin Hat Concerto’ as the script. During these months shooting included many of the key locations which would be included in Listen to Britain: a school playground, a Gillette's factory (a scene that was to be accompanied in the completed film by the BBC radio programme ‘Music While You Work’), and the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.46 Following a common practice within the Crown Film Unit, further footage was provided by reusing stock footage. In a letter to his wife in September 1941 Jennings referred to his current project as a film ‘about music’, thereby emphasising the focus of a film which includes a range of sounds and music.47 The scenes filmed throughout the summer and autumn of 1941 and a number of the sonic features are evident in the post-production script of the film. The script, reproduced in full here, provides an adequate summary of Listen to Britain.48

Opening titles

trumpet, drums, crowd noise

tree tops sway in the afternoon wind

sound of aeroplanes

fields of grain

two Spitfires fly past

grain in breeze

field labourers digging potatoes

air watchers, looking skywards

four Spitfires overhead

wheat field, with observation bunker

sound of threshing machine

threshing machine in wheat field

six planes overhead

sound of aeroplanes

exterior of country home

BBC pips/ ‘This is the BBC Home and Forces Programmes’

evening: woman places a lamp in window, draws curtains

sea lapping a shore at sunset

aeroplanes (fading)/dance music

two soldiers on a bench overlooking the sea at sunset

air wardens in a bunker overlooking the sea

sign: ‘Members of H.M. Forces in uniform, ½ price’

dance music

interior: dance hall [Tower Ballroom, Blackpool]

crowd of people dancing

dance music/people whistling and talking/singing to the music

people sitting out the dance, a woman hides photographs from her inquisitive friends

muffled talk

dancers on the dance floor

‘Roll Out the Barrel’/voices singing along to the music

air raid wardens overlooking the sea

‘Roll Out the Barrel’ (fading)

miners descending a pit

talking/sound of machines

coal mine

clanging as cage is lowered into the mine/talk

chimney and village

pit head winch

railway signal

clank of signal

night sky, train crosses scene from left to right

train stops

Canadian troops in railway compartment singing

‘Home on the Range’

troops in compartment talking

talk/‘Home on the Range’ – singing and yodelling

railway signals, train starts

clank of signal/sound of steam

train departs, signals change

interior: aircraft factory, with workers assembling a Lancaster bomber

train sounds fading/factory noises

bomber taking off against a night sky

aeroplane sounds

sign: ‘Ambulance Station 76’


interior: statue of Charles I in high-ceiled room


woman at piano, female ambulance workers

singing ‘The Ash Grove’

Big Ben silhouetted against the night sky

bells of Big Ben

radio masts

‘The is London calling … ’

Thames and Battersea power station



‘London calling’ [roster of various locations, in various languages]

radio tubes aglow

clouded sky, radio tubes

sun rising over sea

new day: tree tops

bird calls

trees silhouetted on the horizon against morning sky

morning sky, pan from left to right

horse hooves on stone

factory chimneys and smoke, two horses in foreground

workers arriving at factory gates

voices/factory noise

aerial shot of city (pan from left to right)

singing and music, voice of dance instructor

man walking on damaged city street

Battersea power station

factory noise

factory chimneys emitting steam and smoke

tree top in breeze

piano music

interior: woman with teacups looks out window

children in nearby school yard dancing

piano music, sounds of children dancing

interior: woman with photograph of Scots soldier

children dancing in school yard

tanks and military vehicles in village street

sound of vehicles

aerial shot of villages and countryside

‘Calling all Workers’

road underpass, with train on the line

cityscape, with barrage balloons

interior: female factory workers at lathes

‘Music While You Work’

Tannoy in factory, workers at lathes

singing ‘Yes, My Darling Daughter’

workers at lathes

exterior: cityscape

interior: railway station

train whistle

soldiers and others on platform

tea van with customers


worker painting exterior of building

food being served in a factory canteen

sign: ‘In the Canteen To-day at 12.15 – Flanagan and Allen’

singing ‘Round the Back of the Arches’

Flanagan and Allen on stage

blackboard menu: ‘Scotch broth, fried cod and chips’ etc.

Flanagan and Allen on stage


wide shot: interior canteen

Flanagan and Allen on stage with piano and orchestra

audience members

‘Underneath the Arches’, audience whistling along

Flanagan and Allen on stage, audience [clock on far wall reads 1.10]

exterior: National Gallery, orchestra playing on stage, before an audience

Mozart's concerto for pianoforte in C major

sign: ‘Lunchtime Concerts’

orchestral music

sign: ‘Fri June 13 1 o’clock The Orchestra of the Central Band, H.M. Royal Air Force.

Myra Hess Pianoforte’

orchestra playing

people entering the National Gallery

high ceiling and windows in gallery

blackout curtains hanging across broken glass in upper windows

audience members standing and seated before copy of Uccello's ‘Battle of San Remo’

printed concert programme lists ‘Concerto for Pianoforte in C Major: Myra Hess’

orchestral music

orchestra playing

people entering the gallery through swinging doors

women eating lunch on steps inside the gallery

sign: ‘War Artists’ Exhibition’

people viewing war art

a woman views gallery postcards

people eating lunch on steps inside the gallery

sailor admiring war art painting: maritime battle scene

interior of concert hall, orchestra on stage with audience

Myra Hess at piano

audience members, including the Queen

Myra Hess playing Mozart

interior of concert hall

high-angle interior shot of empty gallery: sandbagged windows, bare walls, an empty frame on the wall

fire pails, sandbagged windows

audience members before print of Gainsborough's ‘The Painter's Daughters’

audience members, Queen in audience

exterior of National Gallery

woman on the Gallery's portico looking into Trafalgar Square

leaves on tree in breeze, trees in Trafalgar Square

exterior of gallery

barrage balloon viewed through arch of portico

St Martin's in the Field and the Strand from the gallery

facade of St Martin's in the Field

buses in the Strand

rooftops, Nelson column and Big Ben in the distance

Nelson column

sailor looking into Trafalgar Square from gallery portico

facade of National Gallery

barrage balloon, derricks and masts of ships

interior of factory

Mozart (fading)/factory sounds

workers assembling tanks


military band playing and troops marching in city street

military band music (‘A Life on the Ocean Waves’)

interior of iron smelter

military music (fading)/factory sounds

interior of factory

factory sounds (fading)/choral


factory chimney

wheat field in breeze

choral singing of ‘Rule Britannia’

factory chimneys

aerial shot through clouds of countryside

End title

(p.63) (p.64) (p.65) (p.66)

Thinking that audiences would require it, the Ministry of Information appended a spoken introduction to Listen to Britain. The segment is introduced with the title ‘Foreword by Leonard Brockington, K.C.’, who is seated in a regal-looking chair and who proceeds to state the obvious, namely, that Listen to Britain is concerned with the ‘sound of [British] life by day and night’. Over a map of Britain Brockington states that ‘you too [as you watch the film] will hear [the heart of Britain] beating’. He adds that this is a ‘great sound picture’, which blends ‘together in one great symphony the music of Britain at war’. Brockington then refers to many of the sounds in the film (‘the BBC sending truth on its journey around the world’, and so on). The intricate editorial relationship of the film's sonic and visual components is recognised in the credits, which acknowledge both Jennings and Stewart McAllister as ‘directors’. Interestingly, commentators have emphasised this credit to redress McAllister's previously underestimated (p.67) role in the production of Jennings’ films, and in doing so have at times overplayed McAllister's contribution to the film. For example, in stressing McAllister's role in Listen to Britain, Ken Cameron, a sound recordist who worked on a number of wartime documentaries before a lengthy post-war career in filmmaking, tends to characterise McAllister as the director in charge of the production, including the division of labour on the project: ‘[T]here is no doubt that Mac made a tremendous contribution to [Listen to Britain]. He told Humphrey what he needed – “Humphrey, go out and shoot this” – and Humphrey did it’.49 More appropriate to the situation is Dalrymple's claim that McAllister received the on-screen credit in recognition of the importance of his editorial contributions.50

Working collaboratively, Jennings and McAllister produced a film which is a collage of images and sounds of Britain (or England) in late 1941. The subject that informs this collage is the everyday life of the nation. As in Words for Battle, the war is not represented. While the war's presence is felt (in the form of coast watchers, for example), the focus in Listen to Britain is on ‘normal’ life; not as an anxious response to external threat but as daily routine. The representation of everyday life is constructed through narrative components of place, time and space, which are contained within the prominent relationship of sound and image.

Space and time

It has been argued that Listen to Britain displays an ‘insistence on place’, namely London.51 However, the capital is not the only locale depicted in the film. In another way, any ‘insistence’ on place is attenuated since the places that are featured in the film are not always clearly designated. In contrast to the film's nebulous allusions to places is a rigorous specification of spaces, as exemplified in particular within the careful delineation of the spaces of the National Gallery. Thus a weak ‘insistence on place’ is superseded within the scenes in the National Gallery, which ‘insist on … spatial coherence’.52 The focus of these scenes is a lunchtime concert within the gallery of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K453, performed by the RAF orchestra, accompanied by Myra Hess as soloist. The audience for the performance includes the Queen, Kenneth Clark, the director of the National Gallery (who earlier in the war had served as head of the Films Division within the Ministry of Information), armed services personnel, and civilians. However, the National Gallery scenes are not reducible to the interior space of the concert performance. In (p.68) particular, the National Gallery sequence involves an expressive interplay of interior and exterior scenes.

These scenes include shots of various architectural features of the gallery, among them the entrance vestibule, occupied by visitors to the gallery. Other views in the sequence include shots of empty frames on the gallery walls (the paintings having been removed to safety, beyond the potential for damage by aerial bombardment), the portico at the front of the gallery, and a panorama of the streets adjacent to the gallery and Trafalgar Square. James Merralls uses the word ‘glide’ to refer to the smooth, seemingly effortless movement of the camera within and through these scenes: ‘During the concert the camera glides away from the pianist, first lingering on the audience, entranced by a Mozart concerto, then gliding around the Gallery, along the sandbagged walls, where the paintings ought to be hanging, then outside to the noble classical portico, out into a bright London spring day until the rumble of the traffic drowns the music and the image fades’.53 In Merralls’ account the interior and exterior spaces are unified and equivalent in terms of their representation as rational, apprehensible space. William Guynn informs this point by arguing that the scenes also function ‘according to a principle of opposition, which is in the first instance spatial, but which is ultimately figurative’.54 These scenes contribute to a pattern throughout the film in which interior and exterior spaces are posed as contrasting and antithetical: interiors bespeak domesticity, integration and continuity and exteriors connote diversity, discontinuity and dislocation. Within the references to dislocation and disruption the ‘text proposes the familial community of the concert hall: Myra Hess, the last in a chain of maternal figures, commands the attention of her children. The text undertakes a symbolic work of this incorporation: to annex all Britain to this domestic sanctuary’.55 In his dense reading of the film, Guynn notes that the scenes maintain a ‘certain coherence of space’ and are abetted in this function via the concert music, which ‘anchors’ the scenes, serving as a directional marker. Even as the camera moves around the interiors and exteriors of the gallery, ‘we have not gone very far from the sound source’.56

Notably, too, the role of sound as a component of spatial orientation is, ironically, complemented in these scenes by the absence of paintings from the walls of the gallery. Paintings serve certain functions in films, their presence carrying a host of connotations. Such associations may include ‘sophistication’ for example, and allude to the economic – a painting is, in effect, surplus value on display. Paintings also perform narrative functions, illuminating character and their relations in space, as Stephen Heath's analysis of ‘narrative space’ in the fiction film points (p.69) out. In Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941), for example, various characters acknowledge a painting on the wall of a protagonist's home. For Heath the painting is a marker of the characters’ point of view, as they look at or away from the painting. Further, the painting is a point of reference within the scene, from which the characters’ positions to each other within the physical space of the room can be determined.57 In both functions the painting is the focus of diegetic attention in the sense of serving as the centre of narrative space. In the case of Listen to Britain an absence of paintings evokes spatial relations in ways that differ to the presence of paintings in Heath's example. The absence of paintings in the gallery permits a close examination of interior and exterior spaces. Given the gallery's empty walls the camera does not dwell, as it would otherwise, on paintings, and locations in space are not registered against a fixed point – such as a painting on a wall. Instead, spaces are registered in the free-floating movements of the camera as it ‘glides’ around the interior of the gallery, and, transcending interior space, as it roams and surveys nearby streets.

As with space, time is marked within a narrative, ‘conceived’ as one commentator puts it, ‘around time’, as is apparent in an early script treatment: ‘It is half past nine – the children are already at school … and at 10.30 [ from] the BBC comes “Calling All Workers” … At half past twelve, the chatter of typing in the Ministries and offices in London lessens’.58 As the temporal progression here suggests, the narrative is inscribed within a diurnal cycle (from afternoon to afternoon). The ‘day in the life of a city’ format was the basic temporal pattern of the European avant-gardist ‘city symphony’ of the 1920s and 1930s, a term which resonates with Jennings’ symphony of sounds in the daily life of wartime London. In his criticism of one of the central works of the city symphony genre – Walter Ruttmann's Berlin (1927) – Grierson argued that the film was an exercise in formalist experimentation that lacks the aim of ‘fulfil[ling] the best ends of citizenship’.59 In addressing this task Grierson proposed that films should exploit the figure of the individual at (industrial) work. Reduced to a cipher for labour, Grierson denies the ‘figure’ humanity. Jennings’ ‘symphony’ avoids such a depiction within its emphasis on individuality. As with Cavalcanti's city film, Rien que les heures, Listen to Britain evokes a sense of character through a focus on the faces of subjects.

Conversation and speech are the usual vehicles of character in film. The constant disruption of intelligible speech by other sounds in Listen to Britain adds purpose to the film's attention to faces. The subjectivity of individuals is reinforced through the use of point-of-view editing which implicates a ‘spectator's viewing [and draws] this viewing into (p.70) the “social subjectivity” that supposedly grows out of the experience of living in wartime Britain’.60 Such a positioning is in certain ways the result of a mimetic function of the identification with faces. Such shots constitute a ‘scene of empathy, we see a character's face … either for a single shot of long duration or as an element of a point-of-view structure alternating between shots of the character's face and shots of what she or he sees. In either case, the prolonged concentration on the character's face is not warranted by the simple communication of information about character emotion. Such scenes are also intended to elicit emotion in the spectator’.61 Spectatorial empathy and identification with the fortitude, courage and social bonds of the people depicted is one way in which the film functions in the service of its propagandistic purpose of evoking and reinforcing such attributes within the audience. Beyond the narrative markers of place, space, time and character the quotidian experience of (a unified) society is innovatively represented via sound and music.

Sound and music

Jennings’ one-time colleague Basil Wright argued that the ‘use of sound imagistically, the cross-cutting of sound and visuals (counter-point) can undoubtedly be effective, but this does not mean to say that good visuals could not get the same effect more legitimately – in fact I begin to wonder if sound has any advantage at all’.62 It is a curious statement from a director who, in the same year as he made the comment, had experimented with the disjunctive relationship of sound and image in his film Song of Ceylon (1934). Wright's comments may reflect his frustrations with making his film, though many of his additional statements on sound have the ring of declarations intended to guide, or rule, creative practice: ‘[W]e must not forget that the film is visual, so much so that the perfect film should be satisfactory from every point of view without sound and, therefore, shown in complete silence’.63 As if acting the devil's advocate critical of the sonic innovations of his film Night Mail (1936) he asserts that ‘If you put any natural sound which doesn’t correspond with the visual action you make a dull highbrow film!’64

Such views, with their echoes of Grierson's disparagement of ‘art’ and the ‘aesthetic’ in documentary, were not necessarily prevalent within the documentary movement.65 Cavalcanti, for example, encouraged a willingness among those he instructed, including Jennings, to experiment with sound and image relations, and Wright's statements can be contrasted to the sonic practices of Len Lye's films. Lye, with (p.71) whom Jennings collaborated on The Birth of the Robot, was not included in the group that Jennings referred to bitterly as ‘Grierson's boys’.66 As with Jennings, Lye's filmmaking was not easily assimilated into characteristic Griersonian documentary forms. While ‘Mickey-mouse-editing’ (editing according to the rhythm of music) had been introduced in Disney's ‘Silly Symphonies’ cartoons, Lye's syncopation of sound and image in animated films such as Colour Box (1935) and Rainbow Dance (1936) preceded Disney's experiments in this field in Fantasia (1940).

Jennings’ innovative application of film sound resolutely returned sonic experimentation to documentary film where it revised traditional documentary codes, among them spoken commentary. Voice-over narration functions in a particular way within the documentary text. Voice-over narration, cut loose from the subjectivity of an identified presenter, asserts itself from an impersonal, and universal, position of dominance. This function is reflected in references to narration in terms of the ‘voice of God’, with its implicit suggestion of an all-seeing, allknowing narrational perspective. As such, images are subservient to, or presented as supportive illustrations of, voice-over. Within a reliance on voice-over the evidentiary capacities of images are not self-apparent, but instead rest on the guiding, authoritative role of a commentator. In Listen to Britain the absence of extradiegetic narration is filled by diegetic sound. Such a shift avoids the textual dominance of narration; sound and image relations are not prescribed in a hierarchical system involving precedence and subservience of codes (sound over image). Instead, sound in Listen to Britain is multiple and multivalent, ‘bespeaking’ a variety of experiences not constrained by the dominant and domineering function of narration.

In its sonic register the film replaces the sound of war with everyday sounds and noise. Sounds of children playing, snatches of muffled conversation, laughter, and the sounds of machinery are part of a broad palette of sound which also includes a variety of musical sources and forms, among them marching bands, dance bands, orchestra concerts, canteen concerts, radio programmes (notably the BBC's ‘Music While You Work’), small groups of singers (Canadian soldiers) and individual singers (a girl at her machine in a factory singing ‘Yes, My Darling Daughter’ and a woman at a piano in an ambulance station singing ‘The Ash Grove’). This variety of sounds and music is deployed in varying ways. In one way the use of sound in Listen to Britain conforms to what Michel Chion calls acousmatics, a ‘sound that is heard without its cause or source being seen’.67 Typically in Listen to Britain such a practice operates within what has been identified as a ‘process of misapprehension-correction, the spectator attributes a sound to one (p.72) source when it belongs, the film then clarifies, to a second’.68 In other cases two sounds reflect each other across scenes, as in the example in which the rhythmic noise of a locomotive is replicated by the rhythm of a marching band. In a third case ‘two sounds blend in an acoustic dissolve in an opposing movement of crescendo-descendo, one sound fadingin, the other fading out’.69 In each case sounds – the music and noise of everyday life – are linked to, and complemented by, images similarly derived from various contexts.

The image and ‘doink’

The images in the film include purpose-shot footage and reconstructed scenes (for example, the scene of the woman singing ‘The Ash Grove’ was staged for Jennings’ camera70). Further, up to a quarter of the footage is derived from archival sources. Deferring to shortages of film stock, time constraints and a precedent operative within the documentary film movement, the recycling of footage was a regular practice employed within wartime documentary filmmaking. Jennings frequently ransacked his own work and the work of other directors for appropriate images. As Ken Cameron of the Crown Film Unit noted, ‘Humphrey used whatever he wanted’.71 The point is further exemplified by Pat Jackson who, in his memoir of the era, recounts how he was disturbed to see shots from his film Ferry Pilot (1941) included without his permission in Words for Battle.72 Jennings’ image acquisition may have been more rigorous than that of other directors but, as Malcolm Smith notes, ‘[t]here is nothing unusual about this [practice] in wartime documentary, or in the British documentary tradition, which time and again used stock-shot material. What is unusual in Listen to Britain is that the material is not used for continuity purposes, as was normally the case. Indeed, it is discontinuity which becomes the point in the selection of the visual material’.73

Smith's comment draws attention to the expressive function of editing, and the close collaborative relationship of Jennings and his editor Stewart McAllister. Ian Dalrymple recalled that within their symbiotic relationship ‘Humphrey and McAllister had a strange effect upon one another’:

Humphrey was frightfully well-organised in shooting. He’d have the most marvellous luck, too, because he’d been a painter and in fact was still daubing with paint when he had a moment, but he has a wonderful gift for choosing the exact place to put the camera. So he’d go out and shoot madly and all the stuff would come in to McAllister, and McAllister (p.73) would brood over it on the Movieola. When Humphrey had finished shooting, he would join McAllister in the cutting room and nothing would happen for weeks, apparently. You wondered when the hell anything was going to emerge … Then all of a sudden, overnight. Somehow everything went together – doink. And there was what I thought a mini-masterpiece in each case.74

Within the editorial process – a mixture, as Dalrymple points out, of hard work, skill and serendipity – the range of sounds and images were married to each other in particular ways.

The relationship of sound and image

The practice of acousmatics prominently ‘directs’ images in Listen to Britain. The introduction of the singing duo of Flanagan and Allen exemplifies this process. The voices are heard, softly at first, over shots of passengers on Waterloo station, and as the sound of the singing increases, across shots of firemen at a mobile tea canteen and a man painting a factory wall, to people at a serving hatch in a factory canteen, to a poster announcing a performance by Flanagan and Allen, and then, in a way that unifies the preceding scenes, to Flanagan and Allen on stage in the factory canteen. The process is repeated in what the contemporary director Michael Grigsby has called ‘two of the greatest aural dissolves … in the history of cinema’.75 In an extension of the scenes described here Flanagan and Allen, singing ‘Round the Back of the Arches’ on stage in a factory canteen, hit a note which is used to connect to the next scene, in which Myra Hess plays the same note in a lunchtime concert of a Mozart piano concerto.76 From there, in turn, the film dissolves from Mozart into the sound of machinery in a factory. In these examples a source sound precedes and ‘introduces’ images that then accompany the continuing sound.

However, not all sound in Listen to Britain is synchronous with the images. Asynchronism, a disjunction of sound and image, is a feature of Jennings’ film. Writing in 1929, V. I. Pudovkin claimed that asynchronous sound enriches rather than depletes or neutralises an image.77 A similar point was made by Alberto Cavalcanti who, writing in 1939, while he was working with Jennings during the last days of the GPO Film Unit, advocated the use of asynchronous sound as a method of achieving an otherwise unattainable rendering of reality.78 Cavalcanti's ideas on the relationship of the sonic and visual components of a film were applied within Night Mail, a film directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright. Cavalcanti is credited as ‘general supervisor of the soundtrack’ (p.74) on Night Mail, though he argued that his contribution to the film was much broader and that his ideas on sound and image relationships permeate the film.79 Cavalcanti noted four factors which contributed to the successful relationship of sound and image in the film. Apart from the ‘preoccupation with sound perspective, the selection of the dominant sounds, and the study of punctuation’, a fourth, crucial factor in the relationship of sound and image was ‘counterpoint’, the asynchronous contrast of images and sounds.80 Jennings, perhaps having heeded the effect of Cavalcanti's advice and practices, applies sounds in places in Listen to Britain in ways which are in disjunction to, or not completely integrated with, images. In this effect, as Dai Vaughan notes, ‘What is distinctive about [the disjunction of sound and image in Listen to Britain] is the delicacy with which the disjunctive method is employed’.81 The introduction of Flanagan and Allen who, before they appear on screen are heard over shots of Waterloo station, is a case in point.

The disjunctive alignment of sound and image is most pronounced in relation to those shots and scenes that include the presence of a radio. Radio sound is always identified as such, though radio sounds and on-screen images are not always in direct relationship to each other. For example, the ‘Music While You Work’ radio programme is, after a lengthy introduction, eventually identified as emanating from speakers in a factory. Elsewhere the disjunction is not fully resolved: the sound of the pips marking the time on the radio ‘may or may not be’ associated with a cottage with darkened windows, the ostensible source of the sound.82 Asynchronism, as this latter example illustrates, is the site of ambiguity within Listen to Britain. Further to this point, William Guynn identifies the crux of ambiguity in the film as the ‘gap between the specificity of the image and the [plenitude] of sound [through which] the [film achieves] a certain pluralism: a confusion of sources, a reinterpretation [of its material]’.83 He elaborates this idea when he sets out two aspects of the textuality of Listen to Britain as, firstly, ‘that elements of the sound track can have an independent textual activity … not defined or … only partially defined in relation to the image and, secondly, that a textual plurality is possible based on the “rediscovered” separateness of the materials of expression’.84 An example of such separate, unaligned, moments occurs in the sequence: waves meeting on a shoreline; coast watchers; speech from a BBC broadcast; noise of aircraft; and the music of ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. The elements ‘coexist without coalescing’ and thus produce a plurality of meanings which, when unresolved or incompletely resolved, result in a productive ambiguity.85 (p.75)

Ambiguity and the everyday

What has been called the ‘rule of ambiguity’ structures and informs Listen to Britain.86 One way in which ambiguity is expressed in the film is via and through segues from one scene to another, in which material in one scene is not fully resolved or emptied of meaning before the scene cuts to another similarly open-ended scene. In another way ambiguity is inherent in the visual realm of the close-up:

Jennings plays with the ambiguity inherent in the close-up. A close-up shot on its own, without any contextualising shots to explain it, can be extremely disorienting. The close-up of a cottage, the close-up of a window, the close-up of waves … they could be anywhere, any place, any time – and by using sound as an umbrella, Jennings is able to move freely through space, leaving it to the spectator's imagination to fill in the ellipses that he is deliberately creating.87

One commentator argues that the mixing of sound and image produces a ‘rich ambiguity’ within Listen to Britain, and another interpreter suggests that this effect ‘is, perhaps [the film's] most important political achievement’.88 ‘Politics’ is here linked to propaganda, and Jennings's ambiguities – and the resultant ‘open’, polysemic text – reflect a wartime propaganda policy which refused to denigrate its audience. According to Nicholas Reeves, ‘[t]he essence of the [Ministry of Information's] propaganda strategy was that the people of Britain deserved to be treated as intelligent and sophisticated democratic citizens [capable of accepting and negotiating sound and image disjunctions], and nowhere was that confidence vindicated more than in the response that Listen to Britain provoked from its audience’.89

However, for certain critics any propaganda benefit was lost within the presence of ambiguity, which has been interpreted in terms of an absence within Listen to Britain of an ‘ideologically prominent metadiscourse’.90 An attempt to ‘stabilise’ the work resulted in the addition of the spoken introduction to versions of the film. The seeming lack of a defining and guiding ‘meta-discourse’, and the impact of such a perception on the effectiveness of the film as propaganda, led to Edgar Anstey's notorious criticism, made at the time of the film's release, that Listen to Britain is ‘an aesthetic enough conception in all conscience, but [it remains] the rarest piece of fiddling since the days of Nero’, which ‘will not encourage anyone to do anything at all’.91 That is, as Andrew Higson astutely points out, Anstey's criticism rests on the assessment that Listen to Britain is ‘good art, but bad propaganda!’92 Anstey was subsequently to modify his impression of the film though he maintained that the method of Listen to Britain resulted in a work that was (p.76) ‘too indirect and oblique’.93 For Anstey, propaganda was conceived in a specific way, as a form of universal directive guaranteed to result in a certain ideological (and political) outcome. In these terms, multiple meanings and ambiguous representations such as those in Listen to Britain were anathema.

Beyond such a position is the understanding that ambiguity does not equate to textual ‘chaos’, a point which can be accompanied by the recognition that Listen to Britain does possess a structural metadiscourse – that of the everyday. Constructed within and through a disjunctive relationship of sound and image – and the associated plural, and ambiguous, meanings – the everyday experience of the nation's people is depicted as varied and complex. Indeed, the film stresses the rich diversity of the everyday life of the nation while also emphasising that the social unity of the nation is the outcome of that diversity. In this way, though the nation is represented as divided, or inflected, by differences of class, culture, region and occupation, an ‘essential’ unity holds the variety in place. Andrew Higson offers an extended analysis of this point:

National identity is proposed as the sum of this productive variety: the contemporary coexists with tradition (two uniformed women eat sandwiches under a classical statue; a barrage balloon is visible through the arches of the National Gallery); the rural coexists with the industrial (Army vehicles rumbling through the street of a Tudor village; aircraft spotters work on in an idyllic setting); popular culture coexists with high culture (Flanagan and Allen sing in a factory canteen, while Myra Hess plays Beethoven [sic] to the Queen).94

Many of these oppositions are unified in the film's final montage, which includes a variety of sounds and images within approximately one minute of screen time: a Royal Marines marching band plays ‘A Life on the Ocean Waves’, with the sound of the music fading into the rhythmic sounds of a steel mill. A worker in a steel mill eases a molten ingot from a furnace, where it is hammered into shape. Another ingot is carried to an anvil, where it too is recast. Workers use welding equipment which produces sparks, and on the soundtrack the industrial sounds of the steel mill merge with those of a choir singing ‘Rule Britannia’. Steelworkers stand on a balcony in the furnace room, followed by an exterior shot of the mill and its smoking chimneys. Shots of a field of wheat rustling in the wind merge into images of industrial towers and a factory chimney. In a reprise of the shot that opens Words for Battle, the final shot is an aerial view through clouds of the countryside, as ‘Rule Britannia’ comes to an end on the soundtrack. The sequence brings together a series of separate allusions – to industry, the military (an (p.77) earlier scene showed tanks on a production line, the finished products of the work in the furnace), and a rural landscape – all unified by refrains from ‘Rule Britannia’.

Annette Kuhn notes that images of fire and sparks recur within the closing montage – welders producing sparks, the furnace gates emitting flames, sparks produced when the steel is pounded. ‘[T]his perhaps [is] the film's consummate moment … [Fire] figures as a desire, a hope, that what we value of the past will survive the flames and be renewed for the future in the ashes of destruction’.95 Importantly, the connotation of the war is achieved within scenes of everyday work. The war's presence is felt, though the everyday dominates, and in this way ‘the effect is one of the continuing saga of everyday life, with the disruption of the war being assumed as outside the text’.96 Thus the everyday life of the nation is presented as a sequence of contrasting relationships – city and country, industry and military, and so on – in which the image of the nation which emerges is one of diversity, complexity, paradox and ambiguity – a set of relationships and experiences which ultimately are unified in the everyday nature of those experiences.



(1) G. Orwell, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’, in George Orwell: Essays (London: Penguin Books in association with Martin Secker and Warburg, 2000), p. 138.

(2) Quoted in Aldgate and Richards, Britain Can Take It, p. 8.

(3) Ibid.

(4) P. Taylor, British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century: Selling Democracy (Edin burgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), p. 182. The Films Division, under a director and deputy director, administered the Crown Film Unit and independent production companies working on contract to the Ministry of Information. The Films Division also handled theatrical and nontheatrical distribution of government films within Great Britain and internationally. The Arts Enquiry, The Factual Film: A Survey Sponsored by the Darlington Hall Trustees (London: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 64.

(5) Watt, Don’t Look at the Camera, p. 137. Watt mistakenly identified the proposal as coming from Movietone News. Quoted in Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 63.

(6) Watt, Don’t Look at the Camera.

(7) Ibid., p. 138.

(8) Taylor, British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century, pp. 2–3. Reflecting on the situation many years later Ian Dalrymple, Jennings’ colleague and the head of the wartime Crown Film Unit, felt that newsreel coverage of events in the early part of the war had been ‘haphazard’. Dalrymple, ‘The Crown Film Unit, 1940–43’, pp. 209–20.

(9) Humphrey Jennings and Jack Holmes, ‘The Documentary Film’ [n.d], a typescript in the Humphrey Jennings Collection, BFI Special Collections, the British Film Institute.

(10) Interestingly, Jennings here reinforces a position originally espoused by his nemesis, John Grierson. Central to Grierson's definition of documentary film is that it is separate from the ‘lower forms’, that is nonfiction works which include newsreels. Grierson, ‘First Principles of Documentary (1932)’, p. 82. (p.78)

(11) In Jackson, Humphrey Jennings, p. 232. Quentin Reynolds states in his auto-biography that it was Sidney Bernstein who approached him to narrate a film which at the time carried the title ‘London in the Blitz’. Reynolds claims that he suggested that the film should be titled London Can Take It. Q. Reynolds, By Quentin Reynolds (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1964), p. 186. Reynolds added extra commentary to Britain Can Take It, a version of the film intended for British release. The production file for London Can Take It!, including a reference by the Ministry of Information, 14 October 1940 on Britain Can Take It, is located at The National Archives, INF 6/328.

(12) See The Blitz: The Photographs of George Rodger, introduced by T. Hopkinson (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1994).

(13) In a letter to his wife Cicely, reprinted in K. Jackson (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1993), p. 7.

(14) Earlier, untitled, drafts of the script from 20 October 1940 are held by The National Archives, INF 5/77. Early versions of the script are discussed in Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 73. The film's production history is examined in A. Smith, ‘Humphrey Jennings’ Heart of Britain (1941): A Reassessment’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 23: 2 (2003), 133–51.

(15) Documentary News Letter was produced by the Film Centre, an organisation established in 1936 by John Grierson to promote non-government sponsorship of documentary films. The journal commenced publication in January 1940 and in many ways it filled a space in film criticism left by the earlier cessation of the journal World Film News (1936–38). Documentary News Letter was initially produced as a typescript and demand for the first issue led to the newsletter going into print form. The journal became influential during the war years within the documentary filmmaking community, and beyond. It ceased publication in 1947.

(16) Extracts from the review are reprinted in Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 72.

(17) Before the war Jack Holmes specialised in making instructional and education films (such as How to Cook, 1937). Holmes was appointed production supervisor of the GPO Film Unit after Grierson's resignation from the Unit in 1937. He was soon replaced as senior producer by Alberto Cavalcanti, though he remained influential within the administration of the Unit and an important figure in the Unit's successor, the Crown Film Unit. Holmes was an assistant producer on Jennings’ film Welfare of the Workers (1940) and producer of Jennings’ The True Story of Lili Marlene (1944). In 1941 he directed the story-documentary Coastal Command for the Crown Film Unit.

(18) Letter to Cicely Jennings, Easter Monday 1941, reprinted in Jackson (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader, p. 15.

(19) Ibid., p. 16.

(20) According to Dalrymple, Harry Watt, Jack Holmes and Jennings enticed him away from the commercial film industry to replace Alberto Cavalcanti as leading producer with the GPO Film Unit. Dalrymple, ‘The Crown Film Unit, 1940–43’, p. 21. It was Dalrymple who suggested that a reorganised GPO Film Unit should be called the Crown Film Unit. His idea was approved and the CFU was created in October 1940 within the Films Division of the Ministry of Information headed by Beddington. A. Harding, ‘The Closure of the Crown Film Unit in 1952: Artistic Decline or Political Machinations?’, Contemporary British History, 18: 4 (winter 2004), 24. (p.79)

(21) Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda, p. 156. Reeves points out that ‘Many documentaries were made by independent documentary production companies and in certain cases by commercial film studios’.

(22) Ibid.

(23) Reprinted in Jackson (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader, pp. 117–18.

(24) Ibid., p. 20.

(25) Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, pp. 74–5.

(26) Ibid.

(27) There is a residual snobbery evident in critical reactions to Jennings’ inclusion of so-called high culture texts. Clive Coultass, for example, exhibits a certain condescension towards the ability of what he calls ‘ordinary people’ to understand the quotations. C. Coultass, Images for Battle: British Film and the Second World War, 1939–1945 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989), p. 74.

(28) J. Richards, Films and British National Identity: From Dickens to Dad's Army (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 99. Murphy similarly calls This England a ‘historical pageant’. R. Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain, 1939–1949 (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 29.

(29) Richards, Films and British National Identity, p. 100. Chapman, Past and Present, p. 91.

(30) Quoted in J. Chapman, The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda, 1939–1945 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1998), p. 239.

(31) Winston, Claiming the Real, pp. 104–12.

(32) Winston refers to Words for Battle as a ‘non-narrative’. Ibid., p. 112.

(33) Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 75.

(34) The structure follows that identified by Gustav Freytag in his studies of dramatic structure.

(35) Taylor, A Dream of England, pp. 205–6.

(36) The image is reproduced in J. Taylor, War Photography: Realism in the British Press (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 87.

(37) The image and the words of the commentary for Britain Can Talk It are reproduced in Q. Reynolds (commentary), Britain Can Take It: The Book of the Film (London: John Murray, 1941) [n.p].

(38) Reprinted in Taylor, War Photography, p. 59.

(39) Audiences objected to images in newsreels of corpses on the home front. J. Fox, Film Propaganda in Britain and Nazi Germany: World War II Cinema (Oxford: Berg, 2007), p. 115.

(40) See P. Delany, Bill Brandt: A Life (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2004), p. 167; Cecil Beaton: War Photographs, 1939–45, introduction by G. Buckland (London: Imperial War Museum and Jane's Publishing Co., 1981), p. 26, and The Blitz: The Photography of George Rodger, p. 152.

(41) Quoted in M. Smith, Britain and 1940: History, Myth and Popular Memory (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 82. Smith reproduces the photograph on p. 81.

(42) Ibid., p. 80.

(43) Nowell-Smith, ‘Humphrey Jennings’, p. 330.

(44) Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 84.

(45) Ibid., p. 85.

(46) Ibid., p. 86.

(47) The letter is reprinted in Jackson (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader, p. 31.

(48) The print used for this transcription is held by the National Film and Television Archive. The print does not include a foreword appended to the film by the Ministry of Information.

(49) Quoted in Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 83.

(50) Quoted in ibid., p. 87. (p.80)

(51) A. Kuhn, Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (London: Verso, 1995), p. 118.

(52) W. Guynn, A Cinema of Nonfiction (Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990), p. 138.

(53) J. Merralls, ‘Humphrey Jennings: A Biographical Sketch’, Film Quarterly, 15: 2 (winter 1961–62), 31.

(54) Guynn, A Cinema of Nonfiction, p. 141.

(55) Ibid.

(56) Ibid., p. 127.

(57) S. Heath, Questions of Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981), p. 24.

(58) Winston, Claiming the Real, p. 105.

(59) Grierson, ‘First Principles of Documentary (1932)’, p. 87.

(60) Leach, ‘The Poetics of Propaganda’, p. 159.

(61) C. Plantinga, ‘The Scene of Empathy and the Human Face on Film’, in C. Plantinga and G. Smith (eds), Film, Cognition, and Emotion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), p. 239.

(62) B. Wright and B. V. Brown, ‘Manifesto: Dialogue on Sound’, Film Art, 3 (spring 1934), reprinted in D. Macpherson (ed.), Traditions of Independence: British Cinema in the Thirties (London: BFI Publishing, 1980), p. 178.

(63) Ibid.

(64) Ibid., pp. 178–9.

(65) See J. Grierson, ‘The Documentary Idea (1942)’, in I. Aitken (ed.), The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998), pp. 103–14.

(66) In a letter to his wife, reprinted in Jackson (ed.), The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader, p. 16.

(67) M. Chion, The Voice in Cinema, trans. C. Gorman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), p. 18.

(68) Guynn, A Cinema of Nonfiction, p. 120.

(69) Ibid.

(70) See Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 83.

(71) Quoted in Drazin, The Finest Years, p. 154.

(72) Jackson, A Retake Please!, p. 83.

(73) M. Smith, ‘Narrative and Ideology in Listen to Britain’, in J. Hawthorn (ed.), Narrative: From Malory to Motion Pictures (London: Edward Arnold, 1985), p. 148.

(74) Quoted in Sussex, The Rise and Fall of British Documentary, p. 144.

(76) The scene depicting the factory performances of Flanagan and Allen was echoed in Millions Like Us (1943), made a year after Listen to Britain. Millions Like Us includes a sing-along in a workers’ canteen, in a scene that combines documentary and fictional footage. In a related way the high-angle shot in Listen to Britain of couples dancing at Liverpool's Tower Ballroom was reworked in similar dance-hall scenes in Millions Like Us and The Happy Breed (1944).

(77) V. I. Pudovkin, ‘Asynchronism as a Principle of Sound Film’, in E. Weis and J. Belton (eds), Film Sound: Theory and Practice (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), pp. 86–91.

(78) See A. Cavalcanti, ‘Sound in Films’, in Weis and Belton (eds), Film Sound, pp. 98–111.

(79) Aitken, Alberto Cavalcanti, p. 53.

(80) Quoted in E. Monegal, ‘Alberto Cavalcanti’, in R. Barsam (ed.), Nonfiction Film Theory and Criticism (New York: Dutton, 1976), p. 240.

(81) Vaughan, Portrait of an Invisible Man, p. 90. (p.81)

(82) Ibid., p. 92.

(83) Guynn, A Cinema of Nonfiction, p. 93.

(84) Ibid., p. 103.

(85) Ibid.

(86) Leach, ‘The Poetics of Propaganda’, p. 108.

(87) Ibid., p. 111.

(88) J. Hillier in Lovell and Hillier, Studies in Documentary, p. 87; Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda, p. 169.

(89) Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda.

(90) A. Higson, ‘Five Films’, in G. Hurd (ed.), National Fictions: World War Two in British Films and Television (London: BFI Publishing, 1984), p. 24.

(91) Quoted in ibid.

(92) Higson, ‘Five Films’, p. 24.

(93) Quoted Sussex, The Rise and Fall of British Documentary, p. 145.

(94) Higson, Waving the Flag, p. 202.

(95) Kuhn, Family Secrets, p. 117.

(96) Higson, Waving the Flag, p. 203.