Skip to main content

Diary for Timothy

UK, 1945 (MIFF 1995, Buried Treasures - Humphrey Jennings)

Director: Humphrey Jennings

A fitting conclusion to Jennings' war record, this film of old death and new life-a war ending and rebirth-takes the form of a story addressed to a new-born child, recounting the sacrifices and struggles of the British people, yet celebrating the fact that it looks as if the worst is over.

A scriptless creation—Jennings was always out shooting and the pattern eventually took shape in the cutting room-the commentary written by E.M. Forster (read by Michael Redgrave) is sad and tinged with sentimentality, but Diary For Timothy is more than typically complex. In one sequence, he brilliantly fuses two totally dis­parate wartime events—the introduction of the German's V-2 (a faster than sound missile that was raining silently down on London), and a popular production of Hamlet that was then play­ing at the Haymarket Theatre with John Gielgud—and what so easily could have been a conceit becomes a stroke of cinematic genius.

See also...

Words for Battle

Eight minutes of movie magic. We see con­temporary (1941) footage while we hear Lau­rence Olivier recite an idiosyncratic selection of English literature and the Gettysburg Address to the ... More »


... ... Jennings' first dramatised feature concerns the events of one afternoon and night during the blitz of London in 1943. It concentrates on a small team of the Auxiliary Fire Service and makes ... More »

Spare Time

... ... With little natural sound-the soundtrack consists largely of music from onscreen sources-and sparse commentary, the film shows how people spent their non-working hours. Overflowing with songs ... More »

This Is England

This often underrated work is the prototypical Jennings' war film yet its powerful overlay of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on shots of Coventry Cathedral's wreckage and its climactic defiant battle cry ... More »

Dim Little Island

The post-war world seemed to have little time or space for Jennings' films. By the end of the turbulent forties, the mood of Britain was changing profoundly, and his cinematic songs of unity and ... More »

Listen to Britain

... ... One of the most brilliant syntheses of Jen­nings' and collaborator Stewart McAllister's talents. Eschewing commentary and dialogue (with the exception of a brief introduction added after ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director