This film is part of Free

When the Pie Was Opened

Welcome to an obscure but delightful corner of film history where Masterchef, rationing and surrealism meet public information films.

Government sponsored film 1941 8 mins


Surrealism, avant-garde sound montage, and irreverent wit might be the last thing you'd expect from a government-sponsored film about wartime cookery. But director, artist, animator and all-round firework of a man Len Lye specialised in the unexpected. A simple tale of a mother cheering up her daughter with a pie from her rationing-stricken pantry (interestingly the war is never directly referred to) is skilfully crafted into a work of real artistic depth, while retaining an unpretentious charm.

New Zealand born Len Lye came to Britain in the late 1920s and tried to break into film while working as an artist and designer. His revolutionary A Colour Box (1935) brought the energy and experiment of direct filmmaking - hand painting on to 35mm film stock - to mainstream cinema screens via the GPO Film Unit. With each film he sought to push the boundaries of filmmaking, particularly here with a witty use of sound. This brightest of sparks enlightened the British film scene to the delight (and sometimes puzzlement) of the industry and audiences, before moving on to New York in 1944. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.