Keith Beattie
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An ambiguous national iconography
Family Portrait
in Humphrey Jennings
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This chapter discusses the film Family Portrait, Jennings' most personal work, as noted by a number of observers who have called the film a personal essay, personal in the sense that it is Jennings' summing-up of his notions about England. Family Portrait, which was praised at the time of its release as a vibrant and creative work, won applauds for its masterly style and its fine balance of camerawork, editing, voice-over and music. It negotiates a theme running through Jennings' work concerned with national identity, which, in this case, is framed within a particular moment within modernity in Britain. The ambiguity at the core of modernity is recast within Family Portrait at the intersection of the past and the future. Within this context, Family Portrait celebrates Britain's past achievements in the fields of industry, science, exploration and the arts, and also looks to the nation's future.

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