United Kingdom, 9 min
Myra Hess is a haunting presence in Jennings’s two finest films. You could say that she is the only character in them, or the only effigy. All the faces that find their way into Jennings’s films are unforgettable in their beauty, but they are anonymous faces, caught up in the tragedy of war, ephemeral. In Listen to Britain and A Diary for Timothy, the face of Myra Hess has the chiselled features of a medallion. In this montage of all the rushes of the extract used in A Diary for Timothy, Myra Hess is filmed for nine minutes at the National Gallery in London, where for six years she organised her famous “midday concerts”. There, she sought to maintain the morale of a population harassed by Nazi bombardments with – and this reveals her nobility of spirit – a massive programme of German composers. As in an Elizabethan theatre, the audience sits on either side of the stage and, in the background you can make out, in the wide-angle shots, the empty frame of one of the museum’s masterpieces, stored out of harm’s way. An empty frame. No picture. The music is vector of an unspeakable burden.
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