Film: 5080

Art + Architecture | 1950 | Sound | B/W


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Stanley Spencer an artist and Painter (1891-1959) made in the early 1950's

The film begins with a narrative introduction , including a quote from Spencer, played over film of his home village of Cookham;'in the valley of the River Thames near London'. The film includes a panned shot from, left to right, of houses and trees near a road by the village green as a black car passes by, a shot of a house in the background and a pond with swans and grasses in the foreground. Separate full-shots, zooming in onto certain areas of four of Spencer's paintings which show Cookham village life. The film cuts to a head and shoulders shot of Spencer as he stands in front of one of his paintings and discusses Cookham. Spencer is facing the camera and is wearing a shirt, tie and a jacket, he is clean shaven with metal rimmed round glasses, short light coloured hair with a straight fringe. The narrator returns with reference and film images of the World War One.

The first film is of men with ponies/horses walking down a road with a mountain visible in the background, the second shows soldiers with their guns on their shoulders walking along a mud path, a mud ridge behind, and the third shows three men riding six harnessed horses as they pull a gun carriage with two soldiers pushing the gun from behind, other men and horses follow. This footage is possibly shot in Macedonia where Spencer served in the army medical corps from 1915-1918. Four separate film shots follow showing groups of soldiers gathered near their tents completing various tasks which include dishing out food and drinks. They are quite relaxed and some soldiers smile at the camera. Cut to footage which shows four horses pulling a Red Cross wagon, the cross is visible on the back of the wagon. A man and a nurse sit in the front.

Cut to several still and panned shots of Spencer's sketches completed after the war (1922-1923), which were then used for the paintings of The Sandham Memorial Chaplet in Berkshire. (Burghclere Chapel, Hants). Commissioned by Mr and Mrs J.L.Baron it was begun in 1926 and finished in 1932. The film cuts to a long shot of the outside of the actual chapel, then to the closed wooden doors. The camera zooms in slowly as the doors open to reveal the alter painting, (Resurrection of the Soldiers), at the far end of the chapel. This consists of numerous jumbled white crosses, the alter with it's own metal cross standing on it is in front of the painting. Film cuts to Spencer as he walks into the chapel, rectangular and arched shaped canvases cover the wall to the right. The film cuts to a close-up of Spencer's face as he begins to explain the paintings, several close-up panned shots of the images which depict his experiences during the World War One. Close-up still shots of several areas of the painting; the crosses, barbed wire, the faces of some of the civilians and soldiers and the mules and landscape depicted. Spencer continues with his narrative explanation of various parts of the chapel's paintings and their meaning, the camera pans across the sections he is talking about. Interspersed with these images are shots of Spencer's face as he talks, sometimes with his hand pointing or waving in the direction of the painting he is talking about.

The film cuts to the wooden doors of the chapel closing as the camera pans out. Cut to footage of Cookham(?), which includes a longshot of a village, church spire in middle ground, in front of river/inlet, hills in background and houses in foreground. The second shot is of a street scene; tall houses in the background, old gas lamp in the foreground and a group of four children, one throwing a ball into the air, who pass by the camera. The third is a panned shot of several industrial cranes and ship-building equipment in Scotland. A close-up shot follows of a welder with a blow torch, wearing a large protective face mask, working on the hull of a large ship. The narrative continues. Two close-up, angled shots of two welders, one who takes his mask off. Cut to a shot of two men, both wearing trousers, jackets and flat-caps, one smoking, who are both hammering the metal side of a ship. Close-up on one of the men's faces, then of the large metal screw he is hammering in. Three shots follow of two welders, with masks and blow-torches, as they work on/in large metal funnels/pipes. Several full and close-up facial shots of men in flat-caps hammering. Film of men pulling a long strip of white hot metal out of a furnace, hammering and then bending around large pegs on ships metal floor. All the workers wear shirts, short-sleeved jumpers and flat-caps. Close-up on the face of one of these workers as he lights and smokes a cigarette. Film cuts to shots of Spencer in his studio, seven/eight drawings inspired by the ship building site are propped up against the wall. Spencer looks at the camera and discusses this work, as he sits cross-legged on the floor. Cut to a full shot, filmed over Spencer's shoulder, of eleven/twelve pencil drawings as he looks through them. Cut to a narrative description, played over panned shots of two of Spencer's paintings; a series of panorama paintings of shipbuildings at work. During the war of 1939-1945 Spencer pained a series of Shipyards, officially commissioned and bought by the War Artists Commission, in Port Glasgow. Cut to footage of a Glasgow street as a boy plays with a dog on the pavement. The shot pans left to reveal the Port Glasgow Cemetery, which stands on a hill overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Close-up shot of a man walking down a path in the cemetery, stone crosses on either side with hills in the background. A panned shot of grave stones, standing on a slight hill in the cemetery with a few trees in the background. Cut to panned close-up shots of a religious painting; The Hero Zion. Many people are present in the painting including; Christ, angles, the resurrected, children, profits and disciples. Cut to a head and shoulders shot of Spencer, discussing this painting in a gallery space. Spencer takes the viewer over to the gallery wall where a second painting in this series is hung. Cut to a full shot of the painting; The Resurrection, as Spencer stands under it, pointing at various areas. Close-up panned shots of this painting; men, women and children as they leave their graves. Shot of a third painting in the series; Rejoicing. Several close-up shots of three women tending a grave. Return to narrator and to several still and panned shots of an earlier religious painting completed twenty-five years previously. The event is painted as if it had happened at the foot of Spencer's garden in Cookham; Christ is carrying a cross, two builders carry ladders, Mary is in the foreground, onlookers look out of windows and villages mill around. Cut to several shots of Cookham village life and narrative conclusion. The footage includes the war memorial with six cars visible in the car park behind, a shot of the road leading the memorial and village centre, a woman rides her bike up the road. There are also two shots of a pond, one with swans on the water. Cut to film of Spencer walking towards the camera on a pavement in the village. He is carrying a briefcase in one hand and with the other is pushing an old pram on which his easel and two paintings are propped. Close-up of the pictures on the pram as he walks past, camera continues as he walks down the road.

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