Humphrey Jennings

Of images, poetry and Pandaemonium

in British art cinema
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After a period of neglect, the film career of Humphrey Jennings, one of the most prominent directors of the British Documentary Film Movement, has been the subject of increasing interest over recent years. By virtue of his diverse artistic talents, Jennings can be seen as a purveyor of what German Romantic thinker Friedrich Schlegel called ‘progressive universal poetry’, a form of creative expression that collapsed the boundaries between all art forms. This chapter explores Jennings’s film work through the prism of his artistic and intellectual endeavours as a whole, arguing that it demands to be seen in that broader cultural and aesthetic context. It proposes that this prodigiously talented man be seen not merely as ‘the only real poet that British cinema has yet produced’ (Lindsay Anderson), but as the epitome of the ‘universal poet’ envisaged by Schlegel in the eighteenth century, drawing on his diverse, yet complementary, passions for art, poetry, photography and design in the films he produced between 1936 and his untimely death in 1950. The chapter explores the roots of the rich aesthetics that characterise Jennings’s cinematic language and its liberation of images.

British art cinema

Creativity, experimentation and innovation

Editors: Paul Newland and Brain Hoyle

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