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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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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9 August 1943 (UK)  »

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THE SILENT VILLAGE {Short} (Humphrey Jennings, 1943) ***
5 January 2014 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

British documentarist Jennings was perhaps the most renowned exponent of his field, especially for the 'poetic' depiction of his homeland's noble contribution to WWII. A number of his major films have been released on DVD, of which I had acquired Image's LISTEN TO Britain AND OTHER FILMS BY HUMPHREY JENNINGS; at the time, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the experience, though I also recall that the imperfect audio was partly to blame!

Anyway, the movie under review is another well-regarded effort of his and, interestingly, not quite documentary despite its matter-of-fact presentation and non-professional cast. The fact is that it tells of the real-life events that occurred in the Czech town of Lidice, which was razed to the ground by the Nazis following the townsfolk's assassination of SS chief Reinhard Heydrich; curiously enough, Fritz Lang made HANGMEN ALSO DIE! (1943) – a Hollywoodized account of just this tragic case – around this same time!

Jennings found a Welsh mining town with a similar landscape and way-of- life and recreated the heinous incident there – still, he did not try to pass it off as Lidice but rather theorized what could have been, which I am sure hit the British viewers that much more. Incidentally, this was possibly the first but certainly not the last time that such a hypothetical viewpoint would be undertaken by documentarists: Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's IT HAPPENED HERE (1965) – which I will be checking out presently, since it tells of Britain's capitulation to the Nazi onslaught! – and Peter Watkins' harrowing, Oscar-winning THE WAR GAME (1965) – detailing the country's reaction to nuclear holocaust.


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