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Total War in Britain

Britain's war - from Dunkirk to D-Day in 20 minutes

Documentary 1945 21 mins Silent


Dunkirk to D-Day in 20 minutes flat: this gripping account of Britain's war effort compels us to sit up and pay attention. A 'total war' is one encompassing civilian as well as military life. Here we witness the might of the state mobilising technology, infrastructure, agriculture, industry and above all people. A rapid-fire onslaught of images and information palpably evokes the experience of total war.

Like hundreds more wartime documentary and propaganda films, this piece was sponsored by the government's Ministry of Information. The film version of a government report, it strives to turn potentially dull statistical information into a compelling screen experience. It was the work of Films of Fact, a production company headed by Paul Rotha, a distinctive leading figure in the British Documentary Movement. He was an enthusiastic exponent of montage, the Soviet-influenced use of editing to generate momentum and meaning. Rotha was also a pioneer of filming infographics via collaborations with Otto Neurath, inventor of Isotype, a pictorial communication system used extensively here to visualise facts and figures. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.