Monday, 9 August 2010

An Artist Looks At Churches (1959)


Review in Monthly Film Bulletin - April 1961 (maybe its release was delayed for two years? - RC)
A documentary which looks briefly at church architecture in England from the Middle Ages to the present day. A commentary, written and spoken by John Piper, points out the changes and developments which took place between each period, and gives something of the background which led to them.
This is a good subject, but unfortunately marred by having too little time to say anything significant. The rapid progression from one style of architecture to another in the film gives a good idea of development as a whole - from eighteenth century classical grace, for example, to the nineteenth century preoccupation with the Gothic as a sop to its own materialism. But there is only room for one church to represent each period, and often only for one or two features to represent each church. Consequently one comes away with an impression of certain trends (if, that is to say, so few examples can be truly representative) but also with a feeling of superficiality. John Piper's rather poetic, well-delivered commentary helps to mitigate this failing, as does some very sensitive photography of these works of art in their English settings.

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