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The Silent Village (1943)

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The true story of the massacre of a small Czech village by the Nazis is retold as if it happened in Wales.


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Title: The Silent Village (1943)

The Silent Village (1943) on IMDb 6.8/10

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Credited cast:
Villagers of Cwmgiedd ...


The true story of the massacre of a small Czech village by the Nazis is retold as if it happened in Wales.

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Release Date:

1 October 1943 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

A moving tribute from an amateur cast
11 February 2002 | by (dundee) – See all my reviews

Humphrey Jennings is always associated with the British documentary movement. Yet he was something of an outsider who never really fitted in - indeed he more or less drifted into the G.P.O Film Unit (later the Crown Film Unit) in the 1930's. He was something of an intellectual, and his real interests were literature and surrealism (he was an accomplished surrealist painter).

Consequently, he often eschewed the fashionable 'social realism' to explore the unusual and the unexpected. His films had carefully composed camera shots and subjects that were highly unorthodox.

This film was a tribute to the Czech mining village of Lidice, destroyed by the Nazis as a reprisal for the assassination of Heydrich. Jennings conceived the wonderful idea of re-enacting the episode in a Welsh mining village, as a way of bringing home to the British public the sort of thing that they were fighting against. Not only did he obtain the enthusiastic support of the villagers and the local branch of the miners' trade union, but he actually decided to employ the villagers themselves as an amateur cast. The dialogue and situations were all improvised. This is probably the first time that such a thing had been done in the British cinema.

The first half of the film is a series of scenes (without any narration) that build up a meticulous picture of life in the village in peace time. Then the film suddenly changes gear. The Nazis occupy this part of Wales. No soldiers are seen - just a menacing loudspeaker van issuing a constant stream of orders and directives.

Life becomes ever more restricted, and the villagers suddenly begin to learn the consequences of occupation. The schoolmistress tells her class that this will be the last Welsh lesson. Tomorrow, they will be forbidden to speak it. (She asks all the children not to forget their "beautiful language".)

The reprisal is then depicted, not in a sensational way, but in a series of stark images. The children leave the school in a procession, holding hands, as if they are going on a nature ramble. But they are loaded on to a truck, under the supervision of an armed guard.

Finally, the men assemble in front of the chapel wall. We sense what is about to happen. They begin to sing 'Land of Our Fathers'... we do not see the is left to our imagination, and is thus all the more terrible.

This is a short film. But an unforgettable one.

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