Film: 8643

Art + Architecture | 1960 | Sound | Colour

Synopsis:

Narrated by the artist John Piper.(1903-1992).
Throughout this film John Piper discusses the changes, through the centuries, of British church architecture and visual decoration.

The film begins with footage of a graveyard. A stone church can be seen in the background and old gravestones, some carved others covered in moss, stand in the mid and foreground. Into this shot walks the artist John Piper. The camera pans right and follows Piper as he walks alongside the church wall behind the gravestones. He pauses briefly to look up at the church before walking in through an arched stone doorway. Piper is about 65 years old and has white hair. He is wearing a white shirt, a tie, trousers and a blazer/jacket. The film cuts to a still, long shot of another church, surrounded by trees with a hill in the background. It has a square(Norman?) tower at one end. Cut to a long shot of a third church, this is long in shape, with a large steeple at the far end. There is a hill with trees in the background. Some houses surround the church in the midground and there are some trees in the foreground. Cut to a close-up shot of the steeple, the camera pans from the bottom to the top. There is blue sky in the background and a cross on top of the spire. Cut to a close-up shot of another church. The camera pans from the top down a square (Norman?) tower, which is tall in proportion, to the stone entrance of the church. Cut to a long shot of this church/cathedral. It has a few trees alongside and a lawn in front. It has a tall, square end and a low, intricately designed body. Cut to a shot of another, much smaller, village church. It has a very low body and a wall around it. Cut to a close-up shot of two bells, encased in a stone surround, on top of the roof. Cut to a shot inside the church in a small room. A window is at the back, a small alter in front. Various shots follow of seven more churches, showing the variety of design and age. Cut to a shot of the entrance to a 12th Century church at Kilpeck on the Welsh border in Herefordshire. The entrance has a carved stone surround, six gravestones stand in the foreground, three of them tilting over. Cut to five close-up shots of carved stone gargoyles mounted on the top of the church wall. Some are human, others animal in form. Cut to a close-up shot of the intricate stone carving over the door above the church entrance. This shows; "...interlacing patterns, fabulous beasts, oriental birds and the tree of life." Eight close-up shots follow showing the stone carving in more detail. Cut to a shot of a group of trees with a low, wooden fence in front. The camera pans right, following the fence, until it gets to another church, with white gravestones visible in front. The 13th Century church is in Greatley(?) on Salisbury Plain. The church has a low square tower at one end and a red roofed low body with a stone entrance. Cut to a close-up shot of the flint in the wall. The camera now pans left to reveal a stone dressed window with 13th Century stained glass in. Cut to a close-up shot of the glass itself, pitted and weathered. The different coloured glass and lead is visible. Cut to a shot, from inside the church, of the glass window. The colour is very bright, with the intricate detail visible. A close-up shot follows of the heads of the three men depicted in the window. A slow, panned shot, from bottom to top of one of these figures follows. The shot rests on his face. Three more panned shots of the faces are shown. The scene depicts Brutes(?) stoning St. Stephen. Cut to a long shot, from inside another church built in the 14th Century. A pair of brasses can be seen inlaid in the floor. The brasses are lit up, possibly from a window, the end of two wooden pews are also visible. Cut to a close-up, panned shot of the brasses. Two priests are shown, side by side with their hands together preying. They both wear long robes and pointed shoes. This church is in the Berkshire parish of Shotesbrook(?). Four still and panned shots of the brasses follow, including close-up shots of the two men's faces. The film now cuts to a panned shot of a ploughed field and trees at the back of Isle Abbots(?) church in Summerset. The shot rests on a long shot of the church.

Close-up shot of the church tower with the churchyard and a yew tree in the foreground. A panned close-up shot follows of the square church tower. The shot begins with the arched wooden door and stone entrance, it also shows the arched stone mounted windows and the decorative carved stone spires on the top of the tower. Cut to a shot of a stone gargoyle, a man/boy, mounted on the corner of the tower, blue sky in the background. A close-up shot follows of the head and shoulders of a stone statue depicting an angel. It is very wind worn and is mounted in the wall. Cut to a similar shot of a statue of Christ, this is also very wind worn and is mounted in the same way. Cut to a long shot, across a field, of the 500 year old church. The film now cuts to a shot of a street in East Dudley. It has a row of white walled cottages all with thatched roofs, the road alongside is empty and a square church tower can be seen behind the houses. Cut to a shot of a wooden date plaque of 1537, it is pitted with woodworm. A full shot follows of the intricately carved wooden pew end adjoined to the plaque. Cut to a close-up of the mans head depicted in the carving, it is quite primitive in appearance. A full shot follows of a second pew end, carved in the same style. This shows a woman pulling a dogs tail. Cut to a close-up shot of her face, which is facing to the left, she is also wearing a tight fitting hat/cap. A close-up shot follows of the dog, apparently barking, his tail can also be seen being gripped by the woman's hand. Cut to a close-up shot of a third pew end. This one shows a human like creature, either wearing a mask and headdress, or with "enormous dimples". A shot of a fourth pew is now shown this time depicting a native person; seen on the travels of the seafaring communities of East Dudley. Cut to similar shots of a woman working, a man laughing and a woman eating a banana. A panned shot follows, beginning on some trees against the sky, then revealing a 17th Century church in Swindon. Cut to a shot inside the church which shows a statue of Edward Syngon(?), Viscount Bullingbrooke. The statue stands slightly in front of a curtained area. On either side of the Viscount stands a statue of a page(boy), they each hold one side of the parted curtains. The Viscount himself stands with one hand resting on a shield, the other on his hip. He has long, shoulder length hair, some sort of armour and is completely covered in gold leaf. Cut to a close-up shot of the Viscount's face, then on his hands, one is gloved the other bare. Two shots follow of the pages, who are naturally painted. Cut to a panned shot from boots to head, of the Viscount, then a long shot of the whole group. Cut to a panned shot of the interior of the church at Gayhurst, built in the 18th Century. In appearance it is more or less an extension of the neighbouring great house. A rather grand drawing room people go to on Sundays". The shot rests on a marble statue of two men also with marble surround, which stands next to a long arched window. The men depicted are the squire and his son (builders of the church?). Five/six still and panned shots follow, these show the intricate carved detail in the sculpture. Including the men's long, curly wigs, lace collars and ruffled cuffs, the buttons and button holes and the embroidery on the shoulder area of their smock coats. The film now cuts to a panned shot, spire down to walled church yard, of an early Victorian church. Cut to a long shot of the very detailed stained glass window inside the church. Five close-up shots of small areas of the window follow, then a long shot. Cut to a long shot, close-up, then long shot, of a newly completed(1959) church, built for a new community in the North of England, St.Bernadettes, Lancaster.

The film now cuts to a long shot, inside the Church of St. Matthews, Northampton. On the stone wall, lit up, is a painting by Graham Sutherland: Crucifixion,1946. Cut to a full shot of the painting. Cut to a close-up of the bleeding, pained face of Christ. Two shots follow of his nailed and bleeding hands. Cut to a panned shot from his head down to his nailed and bleeding feet. The film now cuts to a similarly lit sculpture by Henry Moore in the same church: The Virgin and Child. The shot rests on the face of Mary. Cut to a longer shot showing both figures, with Christ sitting on Mary's lap. Mary holds one of Christ's hands and rests her other hand on his shoulder. Cut to a long shot of the whole sculpture. A panned shot follows, from the front, of the statue. Cut to a still, close-up, shot of Christ's face and then of Mary's. The film ends with nine still shots of faces depicted in the churches throughout the film and long shots of three of the churches featured.


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