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Their Finest

Titel: Their Finest (Propaganda)
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, a.o.
Released: 2016
Playing time: 112 minutes

Whether it was in Germany, the United States, the Soviet Union or Britain, in none of the warring nations the film industry was at a standstill during the Second World War. Creativity or profit was usually no longer the starting point for making feature films, but influencing the morale of the film viewer. Only a short time before the war, the film had become a mass medium, it proved to be a very suitable end to make the population combative and to make them believe in victory. Filmmakers often had to tolerate government and army officials in the workplace, who curtailed their artistic freedom, censored unwelcome scenes or texts and assigned them scarce manpower and material. Whether the public noticed this or cared for, for them, a trip to the cinema was a welcome distraction from the daily fears and uncertainties that the war brought with it.

The BBC-film 'Their Finest' narrates the fictional story of how during the period of the Blitz in London work is being done on a feature film that must boost morale. That has received a serious blow after the allied retreat in Dunkirk and the persistent German bombings on British cities. Since many male employees have been called up for military service Catrin Cole gets the chance to contribute to the propaganda film as a writer. Although she must first prove herself among experienced filmmakers, including the arrogant actor Ambrose Hilliard, who is in the wake of his career, her work soon becomes popular. She knows how to give an original twist to the story of two sisters who are trying to contribute to the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk with their father's meagre fishing boat. Authentic and optimistic, that's what the film should be. The fact that the final script of 'The Nancy Starling', as the title reads, is far removed from the actual facts, is irrelevant for the Ministry of Information.

In the background is the alienation between Catrin Cole and her partner Ellis, an artist who was injured during the Spanish Civil War and is exempt from military service. The young woman opts for her own career instead of that of her husband, which he finds difficult to accept. The fact that women flocked to take over the work of men during the war made an important contribution to women's emancipation and motivated women after the war in their struggle for equal rights. Another theme that has been incorporated in 'Their Finest' is the desire of the British to get the Americans on their side. At the time that the film was in process in 1940, the United States is still neutral. Some individual US citizens have registered as volunteers with the British forces, including fighter pilot Carl Lundbeck (just like the other main characters a fictional figure). To encourage more Americans to take that same step, the British Department of Information decides that the American should play a role in the film. Because he has no experience and even less talent, that gives the necessary struggles.

Their Finest' is a typical British film; somewhat dull, slowly and without much action, but well acted and with a pleasant alternation between drama, romance and (British) humour. Bill Nighy, who plays the role of the veteran actor with flair, takes extra care of that cheerful note. On the other hand, the stereotypical way in which the American aviator is played, is weak. The film follows a predictable pattern, which in the end, however, takes an unexpected turn. Lovers of raw war films will probably not appreciate the film, because nothing more shocking is shown than some images of collapsed buildings in London and two war victims. But for those who like to watch British drama series or films, 'Their Finest' is highly recommended. It shows how filmmakers have the power to touch their viewers and how that was used by a government in wartime to influence public opinion. With which limitations, interferences and personal dramas that could go hand in hand, that's what this modest but sympathetic and human film is about.

Rating: (Good)


Translated by:
Cor Korpel
Article by:
Kevin Prenger
Published on: