Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict (PG) 109 mins ***
Benjamin Britten remains an enduringly cinematic composer, inspiring Derek Jarman to make 1989’s War Requiem and Wes Anderson to deploy him in last year’s Moonrise Kingdom. This dogged, unspectacular documentary primer, released to mark the composer’s centenary, slips its history between reconstructions of Britten’s inter-war schooldays: all ruddy-cheeked boys in matching blazers, earnestly discussing Stravinsky and the rise of fascism. It’s meant for specialist audiences, who’ll grasp the (under-explained) significance of counterpoint and the Wallfisch family to this story – and might spot how John Hurt’s narration can’t quite smooth over rumours of discontent within Britten’s inner circle. Still, it’s compiled with obvious affection, and director Tony Britten (no relation) scores coups whenever he sets his camera in front of a choir, soloist or string quartet and lets the music – ever-risky, emotional and dramatic – to sing and soar for itself.
Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict opens in selected cinemas from today.