How did St Paul’s survive the Blitz?
There was an unofficial lull in the Blitz attacks on London, for Christmas in 1940. But by 29 December, the German bomber planes had returned with renewed vigour. St Paul’s Cathedral famously survived, but how?
It became known as the Second Great Fire of London – the night 70 years ago that devastating air raids turned the capital into a conflagration.
29 December 1940
- London’s 114th night of the Blitz
- First bombs dropped at 1815 GMT, all-clear given just after midnight
- Bombers gave up due to fog in the Channel
It had been a Christmas underground for many people, who slept in Underground stations or festively-decorated air raid shelters. For two nights, the bomber planes had not come, and the anti-aircraft guns remained silent.
That peculiar silence had already been broken as dusk fell on 29 December. The enemy aircraft had returned, dropping incendiary devices and parachute mines in many tens of thousands. Their target? The City of London.
By 1830 GMT on that cold Sunday evening, the Square Mile was in flames. Banks, offices, churches and homes were under threat, in the same streets burnt to a cinder in 1666. A US war reporter based in the city cabled his office: “The second Great Fire of London has begun.”
Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent word that St Paul’s Cathedral should be protected at all costs – it would boost morale to save Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.
But there was a hitch – a major one. Water was in short supply. The mains were being bombed, and although hoses could be filled from the nearby Thames, it was at an unusually low ebb – and unexploded bombs lay in the mud.
Nor was that the only threat to life and limb. Bombs, embers and debris rained down on the streets as they raced to battle the flames.
Christmas in the Blitz
- Councils ran best-decorated shelter contests
- Demand high for very short Christmas trees, to fit inside cramped and low-roofed shelters
- Food was heavily rationed
- Gift-giving discouraged, and people urged to give to the war effort instead
Fireman Sam Chauveau was on duty that night. “By the time we finished tackling the fires on the roof of the [Stock] Exchange, the sky, which was ebony black when we first got up there, was now changing to a yellowy orange colour. It looked like there was an enormous circle of fire, including St Paul’s churchyard.”
Bombs rained down on the cathedral. Volunteer firewatchers patrolled its myriad corridors, armed with sandbags and water pumps to douse the flames.
At about 2100 GMT, an incendiary device lodged on the roof, and the burning mercury inside began to melt the lead of the iconic dome. But luck was on the side of the firewatchers. The bomb dislodged, fell to the floor of the stone gallery, and was smothered with a sandbag.
St Paul’s was saved.
But many more buildings were lost. Tram lines and water mains were destroyed, and the streets strewn with rubble. A dozen firemen died that night, and 162 civilians also perished. Those who survived firefighting duties suffered burns, eye problems and smoke inhalation.
The story goes that Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris, surveying the damage, remarked, “Well, they’re sowing the wind.” It was under his lead that RAF Bomber Command wreaked firestorms upon German cities. Before a 1,000-plane raid on Cologne, he told the newsreel cameras: “Now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”
What 's the name of the imaginary creatures?
grem·lin (grmln) (The Free dictionary)
They are called gremlins, gnomes, elves, goblins.
In our film, there is an opposition between “mogwai”: the pure, intact and innocent creature before its “fall” and “ gizmo”, the nickname given to “mogwai” by Billy’s father, the inventor of the American family.
A gizmo is an object, an artefact= un truc, un machin
Friends, let me introduce myself.
Peltzer's the name.
That's me there on the corner.
I'm an inventor.
And I have a story to tell.
Who hasn 't got a story?
Well, nobody's got a story like this one.
It all started here in Chinatown.
Where does the scene take place?
The first scene takes place in the streets of Chinatown, New York City in the USA.
Are the streets deserted?
No, they aren’t deserted. Quite the opposite!
Are there many people in the streets?
Yes, there are many people in the streets.
It is dark and the scene takes place during the night.
Who is the film-maker?
Joe Dante is the film-maker. He is very fond of horror and keen on suspense.
He likes shooting films with a lot of actions and suspense.
What is your first impression?
The beginning is mysterious, strange and scary because of the dark streets at night.
It is also strange because of the full moon.
Elements contributing to suspense:
- Actions and more particularly sudden actions
- Music: rhythmic music, classical music, music including strong and weak beats and rhythms
- Full moon, dark streets, night, silence
- Other elements: the beginning of the film when the narrator says that his story is different from other stories and that it is the best!
A manichean view of the world or a film in black and white: the goodies and the baddies
Who are the goodies?
Billy and his girlfriend, Gizmo, the wise Chinese grand-father
Who are the baddies?
The gremlins (but not really their fault)
I underline the correct words or expressions describing the gremlins in red and in green the words describing Gizmo:
strange- bizarre- nice and beautiful-scary and frightening - they give me the creeps!-cute and affectionate- smiling and friendly- devilish, cruel and vampire-like-creepy!- innocent and pure- wicked
Il faut deviner de quelle scène il s’agit et reporter le nom des personnages qui parlent: Honey, this is the gentleman who sold me the mogwai.
"Sold. " An interesting choice of words.
Conflicting eyewitness reports concerning "little green men".. You teach him to watch television? There was, I believe, a box.
Rand, your scarf.
I warned you. With mogwai comes much responsibility.But you didn't listen.
And you see what happens.
I didn't mean it.
You do with mogwai what your society...has done with all of nature's gifts.
You do not understand.
You are not ready.
He has something to say to you.
You understand what he says when he speaks to you? To hear, one has only to listen. Bye, Billy.
Perhaps someday you may be ready. Until then, mogwai...will be waiting.
Excuse me, sir.
Before you go, I wanted to tell you...that I am truly sorry for what's happened.
And if you would accept it, I'd like to...give you this small token.
There's one other one. This is an invention of mine.
How did you know?
Man at gas station tried to sell me.
Latest word in technology.
Very generous of you.
I'm sure it will come in handy
Well, that's the story.
So if your air conditioner goes on the fritz, your washing machine blows up...
...or your video recorder conks out....before you call the repairman ...turn on the lights, check the closets and cupboard and... look under all the beds. Because you never can tell.
There just might be a gremlin in your house.
Gremlin Naughtynaughty by Dorine
« I am Naughtynaughty !»
« I am very old with very ugly features! »
« I have got sharp long ears and spiky teeth!
” I can bite!”
« My skin is full of wrinkles! »
« My eyes are red! »
« I am very strong and everybody is afraid of me! »
« I am like the devil and like a monster! »
« People are afraid of me and they run when they see me! »
« In fact, I am very kind and sentimental! »
« I am very romantic! »
« I am the most romantic person in the world! »
« My heart is full of golden flowers and colourful roses! »
« My real name is Heartyhearty Georgygeorgy! »
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, first published in 1954
They possessed the art of disappearing swiftly and silently.[...]
For they are a little people, smaller than Dwarves[...]. Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure. [...] All hobbits had originally lived in holes in the ground.
- Plusieurs extraits de films sont visibles à divers moments du film. Il s'agit de :
- Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (1937) : le dessin animé que regardent les Gremlins au cinéma.
- L'Invasion des profanateurs de sépultures (1956) : Billy et Gizmo regardent ce film dans la chambre pendant que les mauvais mogwaïs s'empiffrent. Gizmo semble être assez effrayé par le film !
- La vie est belle (1946) : la mère de Billy regarde ce film à la télé tout en faisant la cuisine (elle affirme que ce dernier est triste), juste avant que le père ne revienne avec le Mogwai.
- Pour plaire à sa belle (1950) : Gizmo est très ému par ce film lorsqu'il le regarde à la télé dans la chambre de Billy. À la fin du film, il y repense lorsqu'il parcourt le magasin de jouets en voiture.
- Parmi les références à d'autres films, on peut noter :
- L'Empire contre-attaque (1980) : lorsque Stripe qui envoie tout ce qui lui tombe sous la main sur Billy, référence à la scène entre Dark Vador et Luke à la fin de l'épisode V de Star Wars.
- Hurlements (1981) : lorsque Billy descend à la cuisine afin de chercher de la nourriture pour les Gremlins affamés, on aperçoit un "souriard" sur la porte du frigo. Celui-ci annonçait la venue du loup-garou dans Hurlements du même réalisateur. Plus tard, des photos du film sont affichées dans le cinéma où les Gremlins regardent « Blanche-Neige ».
- La Machine à explorer le temps (1960) : lorsque Rand appelle sa femme depuis le congrès des inventeurs, on aperçoit derrière lui la machine à explorer le temps en train de monter en puissance. Puis on voit les cocons, et lorsque la caméra revient au congrès, la machine a disparu, laissant des visiteurs perplexes.
- Flashdance (1983) Dans la scène du bar, on peut voir un Gremlins en tenue de danseuse imiter la chorégraphie de l'héroïne de Flashdance.
- Planète interdite (1956) : on aperçoit Robby le robot au congrès des inventeurs, notamment dans une conversation téléphonique où il parle avec un chapeau sur la tête. Ses paroles sont tirées de la fin de Planète interdite lorsqu'il discute de production d'alcool avec le cuistot du C57-D.
- Le Magicien d'Oz (1939) : le personnage de Mme Deagle est très proche d'Almira Gulch, la voisine acariâtre de Dorothy. Elle vient d'ailleurs à la banque pour chercher le chien de Billy qu'elle accuse d'avoir démoli son bonhomme de neige importé de Bavière. La mort du dernier gremlins est une référence à la mort de la vilaine sorcière de l'ouest ( la sorcière reçoit de l'eau sur elle et commence à fondre = le gremlin sort de l'eau et frappé par le soleil,fond).
- Les Aventuriers de l'arche perdue (1981) : le panneau publicitaire géant de la radio « Rockn' Ricky Rialto » est fortement inspiré de l'affiche des Aventuriers de l'Arche perdue, comme de celle de Indiana Jones et le temple maudit sorti en 1984, deux semaines avant Gremlins.
- James Bond : Chez Dorry, Gérald le vice-président commande une vodka martini au shaker et non à la cuillère, qui est la boisson préféré du célèbre agent secret.
- Poltergeist : Lorsque Steven Spielberg fait son apparition sur un chariot avec la jambe plâtrée, il visionne une scène de Poltergeist.
- E.T. l'extra-terrestre : Quand le gremlin débranche la ligne téléphonique, il dit "téléphone maison". On peut aussi distinguer une figurine de E.T. dans le magasin de jouet lorsque le gremlin est caché dans les rayons.
Monk tragedy Of Men and Gods proves surprise hit
By Emma Jones Entertainment reporter, BBC News
Nine monks go about the simple rhythms of their life, in the certain knowledge that they face an imminent death.
Hardly a movie pitch which would have predicted success but Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men was not only runner up at this year’s Cannes Film Festival; it ‘s now the French Oscar entry – as well as taking more than 8m euro at the French box office.
Part of its shocking appeal is that it’s based on a real story. In 1996, seven French Cistercian monks were kidnapped and then killed at Tibhirine in Algeria, amidst rising religious and factional violence. Their murderers were never found.
“When it happened, as a nation, France was shocked,” says the film’s producer Etienne Comar.
“Ten years later in 2006, the same questions resurfaced. Why did it happen? Why did they die? I decided, as a movie, that rather than portray their death, it was more interesting to show them living. There is no answer to their deaths.”
We can be absolutely sure that whoever kidnapped them, they did so for political reasons, not for their faith”
End Quote Director Etienne Comar
In the movie version, the group of French Brothers live a simple life dispensing medicine and comfort to their poor Muslim neighbours. As the countryside is terrorised by armed Islamic fundamentalists, there is an order for all foreigners to leave the country.
Do the monks leave, or do stay to protect their flock, knowing that they are an inevitable target?
“It is a very current film,” comments Comar. “It’s interesting to look at this atrocity as it happened before 9/11 – all the signs of what was to come were there.
“When I re-read again the last testimony of the monks’ leader, Brother Christian, he was very aware of the co-habitation of Muslim and Christian neighbours. He seemed to have a sense that it was going to become a talking point.
“Now it is an important issue wherever in the world you live – the USA, France, the UK, the Middle East. I want this film to ask, ‘what is the next step?’ How can we live in peace with each other? What dialogue should we have?”
Ironically, the movie was filmed in Morocco, in a monastery south of Fez, which in the 1960s was used by a Benedictine order as a meeting point between Christians and Muslims.
In the film, the monks and their neighbours co-exist in enviable friendship and harmony.
“We can be absolutely sure that whoever kidnapped them, they did so for political reasons, not for their faith,” adds Comar. “The problem is never the faith, it is always the politics behind the faith.”
Director Xavier Beauvois and his cast were sent to live in an actual monastery to prepare for the difference in the rhythm of monastic life.
“I also asked them to sing together,” said their producer. “Some of them had never done it before, and you would be surprised. It created a community, so by the time we actually came to shoot the film, there was a real sense of brotherhood.”
Viewers see the monks going about their daily business: praying, singing, healing the sick, cooking in the most unhurried, un-modern fashion. Yet hanging over them is a sense of sickening tension as events reach their conclusion.
Some of the scenes – where the men share a supper as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake plays in the background, or as the community sing to drown out the threatening whir of military helicopters, are heartbreakingly beautiful.
“I hope people will respond to it as a very universal film,” muses Comar.
“The question, whether to stay or to leave a situation, is one everyone can relate to. Every one of these monks made a personal decision to stay, and it was very courageous. I don’t know if I could have done the same. Yet they say, ‘there is no better proof of love than to die for people.'”
As well as the critics, Of Gods and Men has found praise with both the Bishops Conference of France and the French Council of Muslim Faith. But the most important critic for the film-makers must have been one of the survivors of the tragedy.
“Two of the brothers escaped being kidnapped, and one of them, Brother Jean-Pierre, is still alive.
“He is an old man of 87 now, and was unable to come to the cinema to see the film. But we sent him a DVD, and we recently received a letter from him.
“He said he liked it a lot – he could see the community of the brothers once more. He said it gave him peace to see them again.”
Of Gods and Men is released in the UK on 3 December.