Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Silent Village, The (1943)

Courtesy of Imperial War Museum

Main image of Silent Village, The (1943)
35mm, 36 min, black & white
DirectorHumphrey Jennings
Production CompanyCrown Film Unit
SponsorMinistry of Information
ProducerHumphrey Jennings
ScriptHumphrey Jennings
PhotographyH.E. Fowle
MusicBecket Williams

A Welsh village and its people are used to dramatise the lives of the people of Lidice, showing their way of life before, and their fate after, the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Show full synopsis

The Nazis' massacre of over 170 men in a Czech mining village prompted a swift response from sympathetic Welsh miners. They were pivotal in creating The Silent Village, a tribute to the devastated community of Lidice. The film suggests that the slaying could have happened in any similar village, and stages a bold re-enactment of the Czech events in Cwmgiedd, south Wales.

Humprhey Jennings discussed the project in nearby Ystradgynlais just two months after the killings, gaining the co-operation of local pitmen, South Wales Miners' Federation president Arthur Horner, and miners' agent Dai Dan Evans. Evans stresses on-screen the indomitability of miners and Lidice's impact in uniting pit communities.

The drama-doc, made for the Ministry of Information at the behest of Czech officials and freedom campaigners, dramatises events simply, as record. There's a civilised reticence about Jennings' treatment. Sometimes the approach seems distant and the film occasionally has a desiccated feel - but overall Jennings instinctively finds the right tone. In an affecting scene, Welsh locals, forced by occupying Nazis to register at the village hall, reveal their actual names. Fellow-feeling between the Czech and Welsh communities here seems complete.

Skilful montage builds tension as editor Stuart McAllister isolates objects and telling details. Loudspeakers and radios announce the 'Protectorate State', conveying increasingly menacing messages from Nazis pursuing Deputy Reichsprotektor Heydrich's killers.

The film begins with uproar following Heydrich's murder and shows locals' underground activities, including a Welsh language news-sheet. Later the language and its songs are banned.

A constant fear of reprisals permeates the film. In domestic scenes, the locals' impassivity, listening to their radios, compounds the sense of oppression. Stilted acting makes its own contribution. There are no glib, articulate spokesmen here and Jennings, using light and shadow well, suggests a stunned community awaiting the decisive blow.

There is almost no overt violence. Even the final monstrous act when men are shot, lined up against the chapel wall by Nazis, is shown off-screen. Women and children form a silent crocodile as they are taken to concentration camps or into exile within German families. (Many Lidice women and children died; very few returned.)

The miners' defiant singing of Land of My Fathers at the climax contrasts poignantly with the spirited soundtrack rendition of Men of Harlech in better times. The scene can be expected to release audience emotions hitherto restrained by Jennings' commendable rigour and sensitivity.

Dave Berry

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Regime change (2:41)
2. Resistance (4:58)
3. Reprisals (2:38)
4. Solidarity with Lidice (1:39)
Complete film (34:46)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Mining Review 17/7: Czech-Mates (1964)
Went the Day Well? (1942)
Jennings, Humphrey (1907-1950)
McAllister, Stewart (1914-1962)
Crown Film Unit
From Pit to Screen
King Coal