Rescue on the Belgian Coast

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Numerous didactic title cards present, in a somewhat flowery official language, both French and Flemish, the general context, and provide little animated sketches to accompany the explanations:

All civilised countries have set up life-saving stations along their coasts to rescue sailors in distress. In neighbouring countries, life-saving stations are organised by private companies. In Belgium, the life-saving service is organised by the state. Along the 67km long Belgian coast, there are 9 life-saving stations and 130 rescuers. No other coast in the world is as well equipped. After this glorious introduction comes the listing of the lifeboats allocated for this purpose and a description of sea traffic.

Next, the film is structured in a series of scenes, small narrative entities, each one about an aspect of this courageous work carried out by intrepid men. Among them are: the meteorological service in Brussels; the announcement of a storm; training exercises; simulations of shipwrecks; the lifeboats being pulled into the sea by horses; the throwing of ropes and lifebelts to pull those in peril to safety on the beach; the Red Cross service with its nurses, veiled and costumed like lay sisters; the competitions between teams that attract huge crowds and award medals to the winners, all of whom are volunteers.

Naturally, there are shots of the sky, the sea, clouds, waves and landing stages but there are above all fragments of action that bear witness to the fact that Henri Storck had already mastered the art of recounting an event in images. There are shots of collective effort, a sense of detail, a taste for technical precision and the gestures of the workers, the joy of filming the characteristic faces of the sailors… all the maritime vocabulary of the filmmaker is already present.

This is a precise and complete document that allows us to see things that have since been lost: the important role of horses, animals now banned from beaches, the popular celebrations with the Minister and brass band on the sand…


Report by : Henri Storck


35mm/B and W/silent/7’/1930


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