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Title: The communicating village : Humphrey Jennings and surrealism
Author: Coombs, Neil
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 5658
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the films of Humphrey Jennings, exploring his work in relation to surrealism. This examination provides an overview of how surrealism’s set of ideas is manifest in Jennings’s documentary film work. The thesis does not assert that his films are surrealist texts or that there is such a thing as a surrealist film; rather it explores how his films, produced in Britain in the period from 1936 to 1950, have a dialectical relationship with surrealism. The thesis first considers Jennings’s work in relation to documentary theory, outlining how and why he is considered a significant filmmaker in the documentary field. It then goes on to consider Jennings’s engagement with surrealism in Britain in the years prior to World War Two. The thesis identifies three paradoxes relating to surrealism in Britain, using these to explore surrealism as an aura that can be read in the films of Jennings. The thesis explores three active phases of Jennings’s film work, each phase culminating in a key film. It acknowledges that Spare Time (1939) and Listen to Britain (1942) are key films in Jennings’s oeuvre, examining these two films and then emphasising the importance of a third, previously generally overlooked, film, The Silent Village (1943). These explorations allow an examination of the way that Jennings’s films articulate the relationship between surrealism and the everyday, the sublime and the uncanny. The thesis asserts that there is a specifically British form of surrealism that has developed from the historical situation of Britain in the period from 1936 to 1946, one that draws from the national identity of Britain. The symbolic domain of British surrealism and its praxis can read in the films of Jennings and the auratic traces of Jennings’s films thread through the work of subsequent filmmakers. This thesis describes these traces as the communicating village. The thesis’s consideration of Jennings’s films in relation to surrealism offers a means by which to examine the work of subsequent filmmakers and to assess the importance of surrealism to British cinema.
Supervisor: Sorfa, David; Papadimitriou, Lydia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Film ; Surrealism ; Documentary ; Humphrey Jennings ; Art ; Britain