Just from hearing that title, you have a pretty good idea of what you are in for. London Symphony is described as a city symphony – which aims to be a poetic celebration of the diversity and culture of the city of London. Which I would say is a very fair analysis of the film. Using only imagery and music, London Symphony does manage to convey exactly what it aims to show us. There truly is no better word than poetic for such an experience as London Symphony.
London Symphony, above all, is a very pleasant and easy-going experience. It reminds me very much of those films that came out back in the 1920’s – those that celebrated the rise of industry or condemned it. The films, silent movie nature and black and white imagery almost makes it easy to mistake for a film of that time. There is a very strong feeling of authenticity about London Symphony. Every image feels sincere – like there is no agenda to the film other than a simple celebration of the culture of a great city. In times like these, that is something that I feel that most people need to be reminded of.
The film is split into four chapters (or stanzas, if we remember the films poetic nature). Each chapter is set with its own structure. Some move faster than others, and some focus more on an aspect of London than the others do. For example, the second chapter gave us more imagery of the city’s wildlife and parks than the other chapters. I am unfamiliar with London myself – having only been there three times, and admittedly not enjoying it any of those times – but I do feel that this film does cover every avenue of London that is worthy of celebrating. This comes from the majesty of the city, its construction and its nature – and also its people, their lives, their religion and how kind and supportive that they can be.
The music and the imagery complement each other perfectly. I could never tell if the images were leading the music or the other way around. If I were to compare it to anything, it would be Disney’s Fantasia. The score picks up in rhythm and speed as the images abandon the empty and static streets and move to the pumping of industry and chaos of construction. It perfectly demonstrates how different London is from itself – how loud and quiet constantly clash with each other – and yet how harmonious the city is with itself.
Poetry is certainly how I would identify London Symphony. Which does also bring with it the fact that it will not be for everyone. If, like me, you value films of story (visual or not) and characters, or documentaries of information, such as those of Attenborough – then this may not be for you. It is easy to admire it and enjoy the music and imagery regardless, but the overall effect may very well be lost on you. But, if you look for art, for inspiring imagery, themes and music, or even just a pleasant atmosphere – then it is most certainly worth a look for you.
London Symphony may not be a unique experience, what with it follow the basic structure of those films from the 1920’s, but it is still one worth having. Even if it is not for everyone. It’s certainly not the kind of film I usually go for. And, while I was not the target audience here, I still admired it for what it was and what it set out to do. It’s an admirable celebration of where we are now, despite how the world may look through the newspaper. For that alone, it is certainly worth a look.
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