On this date, it is exactly 75 years since World War II broke out, a conflict which in many ways, for better or worse, has shaped the society we live in.
World War II is also the period in history which (in my estimate) has left by far the largest imprint upon the film material available at the Internet Archive. There are thousands of items, including newsreels, instruction films, propaganda, and of course fictional films.
British In Which We Serve is one of those fictional films. Like One of Our Aircraft is Missing from the same year and country, it is also very much a piece of wartime propaganda. Propaganda which is easy to forget and forgive when it is this beautifully packaged.
The film starts with the line “This is the story of a ship.” But that is not true. It is not the story of a ship, it is the story of the people on board the ship. Their joys, sorrows and fears, and how they overcome their problems through comradeship, discipline and courage. (Yes, it is propaganda, as I said.)
As a matter of fact, the ship is sunk early on in the film, and the majority of the film is told as flashbacks to the lives of the survivors. While this is a simple narrative structure in theory, it is handled so elegantly and with such good effect that it is a joy to behold.
The Internet Archive copy, unfortunately, has low resolution, but it looks good on a small screen. In my opinion, it is still worth watching. This is such a beautiful movie.
This film is best enjoyed by fans of Noël Coward. Coward wrote the story, produced, co-directed and played the leading role. It is very much his film from beginning to end.
In Which We Serve
Running time: 1 h 49 min
Directors: David Lean, Noël Coward
Stars: Bernard Miles, John Mills, Noël Coward
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Low (480×352)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG4 (697 M)