Keith Beattie
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Documentary reconstruction and prognostication
Fires Were Started and The Silent Village
in Humphrey Jennings
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Humphrey Jennings' films Fires Were Started and The Silent Village involve a different variety of experimentation in the form of dramatisation and re-enactment. Such practices were ingrained within the British documentary movement, though a heightened degree of dramatisation, especially in Fires Were Started, raised issues of authenticity. This chapter discusses the strategies Jennings adopted in his films Fires Were Started and The Silent Village. Critics argue that Jennings has gone all arty in Fires Were Started by including snippets of Raleigh and Shakespeare within a speech by one of the characters. What the arty criticism of Jennings' inclusion of poetry ignores is that a person quoting poetry or literature may in itself be authentic. For Jennings, whose understanding of national character and personal experience were informed by the words of Milton, Shakespeare, Blake and other prominent poets and writers, the literary extracts were natural components of everyday life.

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