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UK, 1962 (MIFF 2000, Sensational Symphonies – The Unseen Ken Russell)

Director: Ken Russell

Monitor's 100th program and a highly romantic interpretation of Elgar's life. For the first time actors in a documentary were permitted to play living persons on screen but only in long shot and in non-speaking roles. Russell's experimental approach is evident in a series of exhilarating sequences in which the composer, clad in knickerbockers, communes with the countryside which provides his inspiration. Elgar is seen flying kites galloping through the Malvern Hills and undertaking his last car journey accompanied by his numerous dogs and also by the juxtaposition of his Pomp And Circumstance march with graphic footage of World War One casualties. Elgar is presented as an artistic visionary who captured the spirit of England through his music but was ultimately forgotten and derided, ending his life in dignified disillusionment.

"Born in 1857, Elgar grew up with music ad around him. As a composer he was self-taught and spent years fighting for recognition, his middle-class background and Catholic upbringing very much against him. He taught, played in a big band and wrote long-winded oratorios for amateur choirs. His big breakthrough came at the age of 40 with the Enigma Variations. After that the music poured out, sweeping him to a pinnacle of fame crowned with a knighthood. The provincial nobody was suddenly the friend of kings and princes. But after the Great War his music was labelled as vulgar, pompous and jingoistic. With the passing of his wife in 1920 he seemed to fade away. He died in 1934 (the same year as Delius), a forgotten man." - Ken Russell

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