Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 15:30


Walter Summers

Bryony Dixon (BFI)


Recorded music composed by Simon Dobson and performed by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marine


Friday 03/07/2015


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Film Notes

Is The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands a drama or a documentary? Along the spectrum of fiction to non-fiction this feature film is placed far towards the drama end but with strong documentary credentials. It is essentially a highly accurate dramatic reconstruction of the two eponymous related naval actions in the early months of the First World War. In the first battle off Coronel in Chile, a German Admiral, Maximilian Graf von Spee, engaged a British squadron which had been sent to stop him attacking British shipping. He sank the battleships Good Hope and Monmouth with the loss of all hands (1,570 dead) including Vice Admiral Craddock. The British Admiralty, now under Winston Churchill and Admiral ‘Jackie’ Fisher, despatched two new battle cruisers Inflexible and Invincible under Rear Admiral Sturdee and engaged von Spee off the Falkland Islands. The film was the most ambitious of a series of battle reconstructions made by Harry Bruce Woolfe’s company, British Instructional Films. […] The photography, composition, lighting and pacing are masterly but the film also retains a strong documentary impulse with its detailed research, and use of exteriors and real locations and some stand-ins, as St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly doubles as Port Stanley in the Falklands. Most impressive, perhaps, to a modem audience is the use of real warships, made possible with the full co-operation of the Admiralty. The ships are the stars of the show and significantly, in the surviving print, the ships are credited, the actors are not. With access to the ships of the Mediterranean Fleet off Malta and to the docks at Devonport, Summers was also able to take advantage of excellent advisors and writers such as John Buchan and Harry Engholm and he even had the assistance of a young Anthony Asquith hanging around the studio anxious for his first break. There was also an excellent technical team that could handle the logistics of shooting at sea on a warship and edit complex montage sequences. The seven-minute section titled The Effort showing the preparations of the two great battleships is, to my mind, one of the best pieces of filmmaking in British cinema.

Bryony Dixon

The film had suffered extensive wear and tear during its 86-year history and there was severe damage in some key shots as well as some missing inserts, such as letters and telegrams, which we were lucky enough to be able to retrieve from another copy. The original materials were acquired by the BFI National Archive sometime around the late 1940s but the original nitrate negatives decomposed early on. We have worked primarily with a second generation positive copy, and some other later elements which were scanned at 4K resolution. Extensive grading and months of digital restoration with the specialist team at Deluxe were needed to represent the quality of what is a brilliantly cinematic work. We have made both a new 35mm negative and digital masters for permanent preservation for the nation.

Ben Thompson


Cast and Credits

Scen.: Frank C. Bowen, John Buchan, Harry Engholm. F.: Jack Parker, Stanley Rodwell, E.E. Warneford. M.: Merritt Crawford. Int.: Craighall Sherry (ammiraglio Sturdee), Hans von Slock (ammiraglio von Spee). Prod.: H. Bruce Woolfe per British Instructional Films Ltd., The British Admiralty, The Navy League ·DCP. D.: 105’. Bn.