Why We Fight.
- A Canterbury Tale review by Steve Mason
This is a propaganda film, a sort of 'why we fight' reflection on Englishness made as the threat of invasion began to fade into the history. But it isn't remotely like any other WWII propaganda film. There is no flagwaving here, in this literary and subtle story. It creates an impression of national identity through the idea of a shared deep past, forged in a profound and unconscious cultural tradition.
It starts with a medieval falcon soaring, which is edited into a Spitfire as we pass through 600 years of history from Chaucer's pilgrims to WWII in a single jump cut. Three modern wayfarers find themselves in Kent in search of blessings, and come within the influence of local historian/magistrate Eric Portman, who may himself travel in need of penance.
The McGuffin of the glueman who pours the sticky stuff onto the hair of women out late at night is eccentric, but works in such a strange, idiosyncratic atmosphere.
It is a wonderful work of magic realism made with rare intelligence which creates a gorgeous impression of the Kent countryside, and reflects a local facility for a wry, ironic humour. It is impossible to say what this spiritual, intuitive film means exactly, it has to be experienced. Powell and Pressburger communicate the unsayable.
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