Wartime Britain is an excellent DVD set chronicling life in Great Britain during World War II. The five-disc collection contains two full-length films, The Heat Of The Day, and Housewife 49, plus the six-part, three-disc mini-series Island At War. Each of these explores the effects of the war on the home front in various contexts. The issues of love, devotion, naivety, and betrayal are all explored in a most reservedly British manner. The results are provocative psychologically, and often stunning visually.
The Heat Of The Day (1989) originally aired on Masterpiece Theatre. It stars Michael Gambon, Patricia Hodge, and Michael York in a wonderfully complex story of misplaced trust and betrayal at the height of the war. While the tale is something of a spy vs. spy thriller, the real subject is love and rejection in a doomed three-way affair.
The screenplay of The Heat Of The Day was written by Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, based on the novel by Elizabeth Bowen. The bonus features on the DVD include an extensive text biography of Pinter, as well as filmographies of Gambon, Hodge, and York.
Housewife, 49 (2006) is an adaptation of the wartime diaries of Nella Last. She took part in a government program called the Mass Observation Project. British citizens were encouraged to keep track of their day-to-day experiences during the war. The diaries were to be compiled into a unique record of life in England during this extraordinary time.
Victoria Wood wrote the screenplay, and stars as Mrs. Last. The title comes from the anonymous moniker the author is given when first submitting her experiences as a 49-year-old housewife. The film is a fascinating story of a middle-aged woman finally coming into her own via her volunteer efforts for the war. Wood’s performance is remarkable as she suffers all sorts of class indignities, and manages to rise above it all by the end. Her grace and poise put all of her would-be tormentors to shame, including her own husband.
The DVD special features of Housewife, 49 include a background on the U.K.’s Mass Observation Project, a text interview with Victoria Wood, and filmographies of the cast.