Lumiere, Porter and Melies


The realist actualities of Lumiere provided a short, one angle insight into a different part of the world. They were nothing more than a camera (or kinetoscope back then) set up for a few seconds with little action happening. The significance of this is quite clear though. These were some of the first moving pictures in existence and a couple of seconds of people walking out of a factory would have been truly astonishing back then. If it were to be likened to contemporary times it would probably be like us seeing 3D hologram technology, which would create an entirely new medium to work with. Some of Lumiere’s other titles include ‘Woman Throwing Baseball’ and ‘Arrival of the Train.’ This was technology that would change our world, however not through “Actualities.”


Melies the magician would be one of the first to play with this new filmic technology to create an expressionist story. Widely considered to be the first science fiction film made, ‘Trip to the Moon’ (1902) is exactly what the title implies. It begins with a parody of astronomers dressed as wizards, who make plans to go to the moon. It is an amazing piece when you consider that it all would have had to have been privately funded. There are wonderful sets (flats, forest areas), set pieces (specifically the big ship), very nicely done costume and props (the league of astronomers and the animal-like moon dwellers). However camera angles are virtually the same in every scene, making it feel almost like you were sitting in the audience of a theatre show.


‘The Great Train Robbery’ (1903) presents a well structured narrative through the potentially pioneered use of jump cuts. That is, the story isn’t exactly linear, for example the scene where the bandits get off the train is followed by them running through the forest with no need to show what happened in between. It also cuts to what is happening elsewhere at the time, e.g. while the bandits are running through the forest we see the police at a ball. There is an attempt at colouring various parts, such as a woman’s dress at the ball, however it simply doesn’t look right as the sole colour apart from bits of purple on the roof. While I acknowledge it must have been a tedious process to colour it, they should either do the whole scene or not at all, as I think the colour actually distracts from the action occurring. There were some experimental camera angles used and some panning that made it feel more cinematic, as opposed to ‘Trip to the Moon’ where the use of only one single camera angle made it feel quite theatrical.


March 4, 2009. In class, Uncategorized.

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