Film 196 in the “1001 Films to See Before You Die” challenge is 1943’s “Fires Were Started”. This Humphrey Jennings war drama is about the lives of firefighters through the Blitz during the Second World War. The film uses actual firemen rather than actors. They tried to make the film feel like a documentary but it doesn’t work for the second half of the film. At the start is pretty much is a documentary showing the audience what it’s like to be a fireman during the day. Then at night when the fires start, the film turns into a survival movie. Towards the end of the film, one of the firemen, who I believe was Johnny, catches fire and is shown as dead seconds later after a massive explosion. Five minutes later and Johnny somehow survived and showed no signs of being burnt or hurt. Talk about no selling. Overall, I didn’t enjoy this film but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it. I would only recommend this film to people who are really into their history. Fun Fact of the Film – director Humphrey Jennings was one of the organizers of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London. If you have seen this film then let me know what you thought of it in the comments. Here is what I had to say while watching 1943’s “Fires Were Started”
Year – 1943
Director – Humphrey Jennings
Written by – Humphrey Jennings
Staring – Philip Dickson, George Gravett, Fred Griffiths
IMDb Rating – 6.8/10
My Rating – 4.5/10
Length – 64 min (1h 4min)
Genre – Drama, War
I get the feeling this is going to be a promotional advert to become a fireman
Reading about the start of the National Fire Service
Wait… By that logic, England has only had firemen for 74 years?!? What did they do before to put out fires?
At the docks we see men working
Shout out to Co-Op
That dad just got his ass handed to him by his son in a boxing match
Why take a bike to work if you’re not gonna ride it?
Kippers for breakfast – What are kippers?
We have a new member of the squad in Barrett today
We have what on the what?
Barrett eventually arrives for his first day as a fireman and meets Johnny
Here’s Joe, B.A. Brown, Bramble and Jackal working on the firetruck
Why do they have rabbits?
Is he painting the underside of the truck?
It’s 1pm! Time for lunch! Sausage and mash with some bread
Barrett tells Johnny that he was a writer but became a fireman… to avoid women?!?
Even as a Brit I can’t make out what they’re saying
That night, the lads finish their day with beer and piano playing
I know we should be getting ready but… let’s keep playing the piano and sing
Play this next bit in B Sharp
I can’t see a thing
There’s a fire at Dock Street
Wait… Do fireman back then only work at nights?
Swan Lane now
Damn bomber plane knocked the painting off the wall
Fire on Trinidad Street
Don’t fall on the broken glass!
Did they throw rope off the building to bring the hose to them or to rope swing down the building
Sounds hectic at the depot
Back at Trinidad Street and they’re using the river to put out the fire
Looks like things are getting worse
Half of London’s Docks seem to be on fire
Someone is hurt! Can’t make out how or who it is
The building is starting to fall apart!
They’ve got to jump off the roof onto the ladder
Johnny is left all alone to battle the fire on one side
JOHNNY’S ON FIRE!!!!!
Somehow Johnny’s body caused a massive explosion
Eventually the fires are put out and everyone has clearly had it rough
One of the firemen has found Johnny’s helmet… but no Johnny!
Somehow Johnny survived everything
And everyone living in London acts like nothing ever happended
Back at base and everyone relaxes with a cup of tea from Mum