Fires Were Started (1943)

Fires Were StartedFires_Were_Started
Directed by Humphrey Jennings
Written by Humphrey Jennings
Crown Film Unit
Repeat viewing/Amazon Prime Instant Video (included in a package called “Britain Is Calling”)
#167 of 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine. ~Kurt Vonnegut

This docu-drama is a touching testimonial to the brave firemen who battled against terrible odds during the Blitz.

The story is a slice of life showing one day at an East Side London fire house during the early days of the Blitzkrieg before a national fire service was organized.  We basically follow  a new recruit joining this company as he is shown around, participates in off-hour activities, and later goes to help put out a massive riverside fire caused by the bombing of a warehouse holding explosives.

fireswerestarted4900x506The fire was a reconstruction but the roles were played by real fireman and the whole thing is grittily authentic.  For me, the most touching part was when the men were standing around the piano at the firehouse right before the alarm rang singing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”.  It is amazing to think that these men lived through danger like that and had to do it all over again the next night.  Jennings and his crew also captured some hauntingly beautiful images.  Recommended.


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