Battle of Britain: The Making of a Film by Leonard Mosley
Even the most ardent auteurist, once their proclivity toward overzealous artistic deification is tranquilized, will eventually admit that film making is a collective creative process, though most “insider” books maintain an enthrallment with the generally accepted hierarchy of status and celebrity which comes with starstruck adoration limited to either the director or actor. Thus is the ingloriously myopic limitation of ambition with which most of most contemporary cinematic “how it was done” books are executed and conceived. Happily Leonard Mosley’s highly readable Battle of Britain: The Making of a Film is a most welcome exception to this rule; a detailed yet thoroughly accessible journal of an incredibly complex low-tech but ambitiously physical production that curiously becomes a narrative filled with more suspense, humor and drama than the subject film.
Fortunately, for this story behind an all-star production, there is an intelligently deliberate aversion toward putting the focus of the book’s interests on the performers; the usual reliance on the casting process and subsequent colorful tales of on-set clashing egos is missing, wisely substituted with incidents that forego gossip in the interest of anecdotes which illuminate the mechanics of the collective creative process and the delicate balance by which director and producers must negotiate unforeseen crises of clashing cultures and cruelly uncooperative Nature. Ultimately, the stars of “Battle of Britain” are not the actors themselves, but the airplanes through which the wartime recreations are possible. In an exhaustive search which is more times than not rewarded through sheer luck, Mosley records the unceasing attendance to the minutiae necessary in physically coordinating and realizing a massive multinational production depicting the German attempt to decimate the R.A.F. as a precursor to the invasion of Great Britain. Recounted are endless meetings and negotiations with film distributors and backers, many of whom- as in the case with the illustrious Rank Organization -find their initial enthusiasm in having an association with such a patriotically prestigious enterprise softened by a requisite commitment of financial resource. As Mosley practically illustrates, regardless of the stars, the story or the creative integrity of a project, filmmaking is ultimately a matter of money.
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