Silent Village, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1943). Crown Film Unit, Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information. Directed and written by Humphrey Jennings. Cast drawn from the inhabitants of Cwmgiedd, South Wales. 36 minutes. Black and white.

The Silent Village is presented as a documentary, opening with a title card describing the World War Two atrocity committed by German forces in the mining town of Lidice, Czechoslovakia on 10 June 1942. In revenge for the assassination a week earlier of Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942), who was a central implementer of the Final Solution, the entire male population of Lidice (173 men and adolescents) was murdered, and the remaining 300 women and children were removed to concentration camps, where almost all of them died.

The action begins in the small Welsh mining town of Cwmgiedd, with eight minutes depicting the lives of its actual inhabitants before the film moves into a Hitler Wins Alternate History with the arrival of the German occupation forces, accompanied by bellowing loudspeakers. Welsh is banned. Slogans appear everywhere. Heydrich is assassinated. The women and children of Cwmgiedd are removed in trucks. The men are lined up against a wall. They sing "Land of our Fathers." The film ends abruptly, but it is clear they are about to be shot en masse.

The Silent Village was Jennings's twentieth documentary, an experience reflected in his utter control of the material: life under occupation is presented with remarkable economy; and the film's pervading dread – the initial title card has made it clear what is about to happen – is conveyed with devastating reticence. [JC]

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