"Under the knowing eye of a flock of children, a tramway proceeds through the streets of Dunkirk at the beginning of the 20th century", between 1908 and 1913. Later, the town was practically destroyed by bombardment during the Second World War. !In the middle of the ruins, only the statue of Jean Bart that you can spot in the film remains today.
Everyday life unfurls via a long tracking shot: shopkeepers, businessmen, housewives, hawkers, all kinds of onlookers take part in the hustle and bustle of urban life. Then as we move away from the centre, the town is concealed and another movement, that of the outskirts, has the upper hand.
From a nitrate copy, this documentary tinged with timeless beauty is a witness of the impact time has on the filmic image and its subject.
Director: Anonymous Nationality: French Length: 5' 15" Genre: documentary Sound: silent with soundtrack Original elements: black & white Composer: Ivan Boumans Molina Original language: French"
I love this piece of film which tells of the fleeting nature and passage of time on us. People. And a town, which was captured on celluloid at this brief moment, but whose life would never be quite the same again.
And I make no excuse, to take us back again to my favourite wise, wise words which can be found within The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam dating from 1859, perhaps fifty years before this film saw the light of day:
"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it".
Please share what these words mean to you here today, if you can spare a few moments from the hectic round of present wrapping, bow tying, elbowing rival shoppers out of the way and mixing up figgy puddings...
For it is at this time of year, is it not, that we think about what has gone before, we make promises of how things are going to be different next year, and sometimes bitter-sweet regret mingles with a few scattered memories of pleasure...