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Words for Battle (1941)

Poetry by Rudyard Kipling, John Milton, and William Blake, and excerpts from speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, all read by Laurence Olivier, illuminate documentary footage ... See full summary »

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Poetry by Rudyard Kipling, John Milton, and William Blake, and excerpts from speeches by Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, all read by Laurence Olivier, illuminate documentary footage of England during its defense against the Nazi blitz in World War II. This short film serves as both propaganda and as a rallying cry to the British people. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Documentary | Short | War

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May 1941 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Sanoja taisteluun  »

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1.37 : 1
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Rousing propaganda piece
9 September 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Made early in World War Two, this film offers inspiration to the people of Britain through a series of texts, mainly about the nature of Britain, drawn from great writers of the past and present. Laurence Olivier reads the poetry and prose in his customary powerful voice, and the words are accompanied by images of Britain which are often striking and poetic.

The film uses the writings of such classic English writers as Milton, Blake, Browning, and Kipling. From Kipling they choose the powerful but dark The Beginnings, which speaks of the time "when the English began to hate" and manages to be quite terrifying.

Also we hear Olivier reading from Churchill's speeches and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, making the film in part an appeal to Britain's American cousins to acknowledge their common culture and enter the war.

As propaganda it is effective: it's hard not to be moved by Britain's greatest actor reading Blake's Jerusalem. But at the same time, it's very vague in its message, more a reminder of British history than a manifesto of why we fought, and paradoxically it's only Lincoln's words that set out something of what the war was really about, the battle for liberty.

But visually, as you would expect from Jennings, there is much that is beautiful and arresting. A historical curio, but one still with plenty of interest.


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