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Weather Forecast (1934)

Courtesy of Royal Mail Group Ltd

Main image of Weather Forecast (1934)
35mm, black and white, 18 mins
DirectorEvelyn Spice
Production CompanyGPO Film Unit
ProducerJohn Grierson
PhotographyGeorge Noble

The collection, preparation, and publication of material for weather forecast for farmers, seamen, and pilots.

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Made under the auspices of the General Post Office, Weather Forecast depicts the central importance of the GPO's telecommunications systems in bringing the latest weather reports to the country. While largely educational in purpose, providing a detailed portrait of the complex channels of communication that combine to produce the forecast, the film escapes didacticism by utilizing the drama of a developing storm to carry the narrative.

Commentary is used sparsely; the story is told chiefly through the images and voices of the men and women who form essential links in the process. Gently humorous touches are scattered throughout the film, like the farm cat who listens to the forecast on the radio and the passenger on the sea voyage whose newspaper is ripped away by the mounting winds. The film combines poetically structured montage sequences with an early observational camera approach. People for whom the forecast is critically important - a fisherman, a farmwoman and an airline pilot - are shown responding to the forecast's warnings as the storm mounts.

The film was particularly noted for its soundtrack. Using minimal commentary and sparsely placed atmospheric music, sounds are often separated from their original images and superimposed over other visuals. The teleprinter is heard over the sea; the sound of the ship overlaps shots of the land. Sound effects are used to dramatic effect: the wailing of the wind, the creaking of cables. A medley of male and female voices delivering the forecast blends with sounds of the storm to add a sense of urgency. The sync sound dialogue adds a human, conversational tone. As the storm begins to abate, the fisherman, putting out his nets, begins to hum, the sound mingling with the wind and the waves.

Music is used sparingly, at the beginning to build a sense of drama and suspense, in the middle, diagetically, as we hear a chirpy BBC tune coming from the farm radio and, at the end, a gentle fragment of music returns us to the peace after the storm, the harp blending with the gentle lapping of the waves. The visuals become less frenetic and the pace of the editing slows to leave us with the image of a sea at rest, but with the reminder of the dangers that the elements can bring.

Barbara Evans

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Addressing The Nation: The GPO Film Unit Collection Volume 1'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Linking the nation (3:00)
2. Forecasting (4:23)
3. Severe gales (4:34)
4. Croydon calling (4:13)
Complete film (18:05)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Fish, Michael (1944-)
Spice, Evelyn (1904-1990)
GPO Film Unit (1933-1940)
The GPO Film Unit: 1934
Women Non-Fiction Filmmakers 1930-1960