Humphrey Jennings

Scen.: Humphrey Jennings; F.: H. E. Fowle; M.: Sid Stone; Mu.: Denis Blood; Canzone: “Lili Marlene” di Norbert Schultze (musica), Hans Leip (parole); Scgf.: Edward Carrick; Su.: Ken Cameron; Int.: Lucie Mannheim (se stessa), Marius Goring (se stesso), Pat Hughes (Lale Andersen), Denis Johnston (se stesso), Werner Alvensleben, Charles Kormos, Humphrey Jennings (Hans Leip); Prod.: J. B. Holmes per Crown Film Unit 35mm. D.: 30’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Doleful and lachrymose, the song “Lili Marlene”, composed by Norbert Schultze in 1938 to existing words by Hans Leip, reached what may now seem bizarre heights of popularity during the Second World War. German radio engineers first popularised it in a recording by the Swedish nightclub singer Lale Andersen. The broadcasts were gratefully heard by Afrika Korps troops in the desert, who found comfort in the song’s words of longing for home. The British, ultimately victorious in north Africa, took comfort from the song themselves before ‘capturing’ it and turning it into a British propaganda weapon. The story of Lale Andersen and her song provided Jennings with the material for perhaps his oddest wartime exercise. The skills of the born collage-maker, so evident in films like Listen to Britain, are less in evidence here: we move, fascinated if bemused, through a jumble of straight-to-camera statements, archive footage and over-obvious studio imaginings. One of these briefly features Jennings himself as the song’s author in Hamburg, composing the lyrics at a typewriter; while the last scene takes a leap into the post-war future with a lyrical travelling shot along market stalls, bursting with camaraderie and fruit. It’s all disconcerting. But given the numerous propaganda goals behind the Lili Marlene story – praise for the British Eighth Army, joy at the Russians’ successes in the East, and a notion that the war’s end could at least be talked about – perhaps a jumble was inevitable.

Geoff Brown


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