‘It’s Only Chance That You’re Safe and Sound’: Meanings of the Body in Humphrey Jennings’ A Diary for Timothy
This article examines Humphrey Jennings’ film A Diary for Timothy (1945) and makes the case for understanding the form and aesthetic power of the film through the multiple meanings of the human body. Bodies — of the infant Timothy and of others — are literally depicted throughout in a variety of ways, showing both the cost of the conflict in corporeal terms and the different roles played by civilians in a Total War. But bodies are also used conceptually in the film, they allow a movement beyond the diary structure and introduce a more complex temporality, with visions of a world worth fighting for and memories of the interwar years. Moreover, Jennings’ own past as a Surrealist helps explain his interest in the implied or imagined body, with a tension present throughout between Timothy — a baby with a body but no voice; and the narrator’s commentary — a voice without a body.