February 3, 1952 [The Small Back Room]

"The Archers" reach back to the War and find it in The Small Back Room--where David Farrar and Kathleen Byron--Sammy and Susan--dare the whiskey bottle to stay in his hand, the unexploded bomb easy to pick up and ruin them all. Sammy has a puzzle--trapped not only by the booze but the bureaucracy of the War, the back-room research gummed up by fools and interested parties. But out there in the open, on the slippery shingle, the sea at his feet, the gulls above, Sammy's hands steady themselves as he tries to defuse the situation.

Michael Powell and his colleagues know that black and white photography can reach deeply into the dreams we don't remember and slip them into the parlor, almost silently--but also nightmares, the bottle rising like one of those standing stones on Salisbury Plain, where the faulty gun tries its best, the ancient stones benches for chilly English hindquarters hoping something will come along to keep them from heil-ing right in der F├╝hrer's face. And it's Sammy and Susan to the rescue--sick of each other, almost, and fighting their own War long enough to surrender, reconcile, and stare back at that bottle. I didn't think the War could be told as a love story--it was too scattered and panicked--but here it is, with just one explosion averted--but that's enough to keep them going, standing up from the small sofa or little declension on the beach, just like Churchill said they would.


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