From the Sea to the Land Beyond Britain’s Coast on Film

I heard an interview a while ago with the band British Sea Power who provide the soundtrack to this film, so was glad to finally see it. Funded by Sheffield Documentary Festival, it is a fascinating selection of work from the British Film Institute from early black and white to the modern era. We see nurses on board a ship posing awkwardly, their aprons and hats blowing in the breeze before they prod each other to march away. A group of naval officers displaying an amazing assortment of moustaches do a similar parade, clueless as to what they are meant to be doing, but proud of their uniforms nonetheless.

We see men swimming in dinner jackets, top hats and umbrellas, bathing belle competitions and a ditzy young woman dancing like Isadora Duncan on girders of a tall building with a tambourine watched with bemusement by an old man on the site. Bonkers!

We see the horrors of war, we are shown ships being launched and others running aground, which I found really upsetting. There is the bravery of the lifeboat men in their fragile boats and helicopter rescues. We see the ruins of post war London, the champagne drinking, the shouting on the stock exchange floor and those huge early mobile phones. The building of skyscrapers of Canary Wharf which swept away much of the old east of London. Then the old and new are intercut so we are left with a sense of loss, of regret but not mawkishness of the England that is no more. The soundtrack is brilliantly evocative, lots of jangly guitars that are well matched with the images. 

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