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The three minutes sequence

Molly Deenen

Dr Fatmir Terziu

Heart of The Angel is a documentary made by Molly Dineen in 1989 for BBC2. The British Film Institute, nominated the documentary as a Winner of the Grierson’s Memorial Trust 2003 for “Outstanding Contribution to the Art of Documentary”. The Royal Television Society praised it for the Documentary Award and later won British entry for Prix Europa. That’s why I chose this documentary. I chose the beginning of the documentary as the three minutes sequence because to me it was the most climactic part.

This sequence is a perfect model of Eisenstein’s theory of documentary film. The establishing shot is a long shot of the movement of a train; the camera through the train’s front window shows it. In this shot the viewers see what the camera sees. The train enters the middle tunnel from three. The same shot starts with daylight and ends with the darkness of the tunnel. As the train moves through the tunnel a voice- over narrator suddenly starts his narrative. The second shot is a close-up of a crowded train carriage. Because of the way the shots are edited so subtly together, the viewers read the event in the first shot as the cause of the events in the second shot.

Heart of The Angel is a documentary made by Molly Dineen in 1989 for BBC2.

The third shot shows the train entering a station. The platform is full of people waiting for the train. In the next shot which is a high angle long pan shot, the camera changes its angle. After filming from the front of the train in shot three, moves to filming from a side window. There is a transition from long shot to high angle pan shot. This sudden movement is an idea developed by Grierson in his documentaries.

The camera in shot five is focused at an underground tickets collector checking for passengers’ tickets. His words in conversation with people, and the medium pan shot tells the viewers that he enjoys his job, and creates new patterns of expression.

A few shots later a ticket seller adds a funny side to the documentary. Once when he has a misunderstanding with one of the customers and the other when a lady tries to pay him less, he demands that she pays the full price for the ticket. Later in two shots fused together perfectly a logical sense is given. When people use the stairs to go up instead of escalators, it makes viewers think of those unable to climb stairs. Another side of the documentary is a dramatic situation. This happens in the last shot of this sequence. A lady is complaining to the Angel’s Underground Foreman about a broken lift, but he pretends he doesn’t know anything.

This sequence can be divided into individual segments, by shift of location. For instance after the train entered the tunnel, in the next shot the camera was filming outside the station. The story is told episodically. There is no difference between plot and story. The main point of this documentary is about the problems London Underground had in the 1980s.


BELLOUR, R. (2001) The Analysis of Film 2nd ed Bloomington: Indiana University Press

BBC2 Television (1986) Heart of the Angel: Molly Dineen [DVD]

BRUZZI, S. (2000) New Documentary: A Critical Introduction 2nd ed London & New York: Routledge

IZOD, J. (1987) Reading The Screen 2nd ed Harlow: Longman

KILBORN, R. & IZOD, J. (1997) An Introduction To Television Documentary (Confronting Reality) 1st ed Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press

PFD, Molly Dineen CV at PFD (Documentary Director) (1989) UK: {Online} Available at

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