LOTS OF HARD, BITTER AND TRUE THINGS ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS FILM IN ENGLAND
—Said by John Grierson
00K HERE, this column is firstI, water important this week. You must read it. I can say that because I have not written the main part of it; it is quoted from John Grierson's words in October's issue of
John Grierson is someone we should be grateful for. lie sees films as we Catholics ought to be seeing films, as inspiration, as imaginative possibility
without limits, as material for public service. And he has used his far-sighted vision to bring reality to the social work that films can realise.
He built the documentary and the educational film in this country. He
pointed meaning finHe Fought a gers at our slums. Way Through He graphically illus
trated the need our children have of nourishment, balanced and sustaining. He gave us a pictorial Post Office that we won't easily forget, introduced us to deep sea fishermen so that we knew them like our brothers. He founded the Empire Library and other libraries. discovered ways to get money for these enterprises, made hundreds of experimental films, argued, wrote, spoke, and generally forced a way through all opposition by his driving sincerity and absolute rock-founded belief in the social message which is in the field of film.
Mr. Grierson would have the same belief in the religious film, but he finds none of the churches doing anything constructive enough for him to put faith in.
" In our struggle to vary the synthetic diet of the cinemas and find another depth or two in our bright
Grierson and lovely art, I Expects have, heaven forgive
my innocence, expected a lot from the churches," thus vigorously complains Mr. Grierson, and there is a lot of truth in the hard, bitter things he expresses which we (and not only the Church of England) have got to look at straight and unflinchingly, though they hurt.
" They (the churches) have the halls in thousands, and the audiences in thousands; people to talk to, waiting to be talked to with bright and lovely arts. They have, even if they have gone lazy and lost their sense of privilege, a basic contact with the life of Britain. Back of them is the commission to tell where the spirit gets off at, and speak of the deepest things that men may know.
" Just think of it from a film point of view. No fancifying, no doping with synthetics, or gearing It's a Terrific the stuff down, but a Set-up full-blown commis
sion with the church hells ringing and the choirs in full blast. And there isn't anyone, anywhere, but is waiting for the word that will vitalise, release, heroicise, and tell him where he gets off at.
"It is a terrific set-up, and when artists before now had the privilege of it they built cathedrals and painted pictures that are still the most inspiring things in civilisation."
Then Mr. GI ie.! son gets a little off-track about the amount of money the churches have to spend on experiment with such medium as films.—" They have only, at worst, to waste a million or two finding and building the people who will use the film to inspire people."
But the real trouble about religious films is not money lacking or money in plenty not yet farmed, but Where Are Our apparently no brains, Pioneers ? imagination and technical ability to make them. Mr. Grierson recognises this weakness at a twinkling of his eye. He has seen church committees working at a film and he is brutally sceptical of their methods. " The mistake is a simple one and not only the mistake of thinking a group of matter-of-fact non-artists equals one feat of imagination.
"It is the mistake of thinking that the inspirational bit of the job will come from the church side and the technical
bit from the artist. It is the old and common mistake of treating the artist as a chauffeur. You tell him where to go, and he, knowing his motors, takes you. But the fun of the fallacy is that in asking for chauffeurs, you get them."
"If the churches want the greatest service from this art, it is not just the cameras and the pictures that it
Trust, Don't wants, but the power Dictate that makes pictures
light up and talk.
That is the artist's power, and no hack-seat driving is any equivalent."
And such a plea for more trust doesn't' go amiss, either.
Finally, Mr. Grierson's grumble is with the unimaginative, blunt way we set about putting what films we have made on the screen. " I don't know why it is that the church people, like the advertising people, should make so much of the brand mark on their product. They don't need to. Inspire people in those values on which religion properly insists, and you do religion's job. Teach the fear of God, humility, and loving one's neighbour as oneself, and you do the Church's teaching. But no. The Church people go on insisting on the dumbly explicit."
We had examples only last week of the less successful " dumbly explicit " film from the Religious Film
Examples in Society (Church of Point England) who have
recently made three
productions—Faith Triumphant, which chronicles an episode from St. Paul's life; A Woman's Faith, which tells, in ample but unilluminating fashion, the story of the woman who came to Jesus to implore Him to cure her daughter possessed by a devil, and another showing the upbringing and promise of young Samuel. None of these films justified the remark of Bishop Linton, who said that more was needed in preparing a religious film than the professional could provide.
What was quite obviously needed in these films was just exactly all the things that only a professional could provide—and these things were not technical tricks but the vital, urgent inspiration that only comes to the man on the job when he actually has his tools in his hands, knowing instinctively how they should be used.
And this brings us right back .to Vrgilanti Guru (the Pope's encyclical on films). " For this purpose (the purpose of making our own films) make full use of the technical ability of experts."
* See is the new nomenclature for World Film News. We don't like its new name, I'm afraid. explosion of an amunition ship—all flames and smoke and thrills and Clark Gable hanging to the plane's wing with his heels.
But then 1 suggest you leave. The jungle story to follow is terrible stuff with only two consolations in it and those a rare couple of expressive masks of chickens' heads.
If I Were King
FRANCOIS VILLON'S story is honey comb to the motion-picture mould. The romantic poet who is also social reformer and a vagabond, what could be better? As though the task was a little too easy, a pleasant job of costume and drama, romantic episodes and mild excitement that couldn't be libelled tense by the most fulsome, has been made of it.
No one could dislike If I Were King. Plaza