Early European Short Films (cont)

Even though the war films were a big part of the European movement, something else that may have been noticed in the last film was that there was now sound involved in the films. When you allow for on camera audio to be used, you can add so much more to story, such as giving it a better flow, or a story line that doesn’t have to be dependent on the over the top acting, but on what they script says and delivery of said lines.

One of the more famous short films that came out with sound was the film, “Un Chien Andalou,” by Salvador Dali which was an experimental film that doubles for an art exhibit on camera.

As can be seen in the film, the camera is able to operate and variety of ways from following a specific person on camera in front of them or from the side. The camera is capable of zooming in or out of situations. Also for the one of first times, the use of some sort of special effects can be used simply by using camera tricks or by using double negatives on camera.

This trend of growing as a whole continued for the next few decades through the war era as companies were album to expand on their ideas of entertainment and film as a whole because of the new capabilities they now had. Theatres were opening up all over the whole of Europe where people could easily be capable of walking up and watching one of these new short films that could now include not only sound, but also a new medium of equipment that allowed the director to really go full range with that he wanted to do with his ideas.

Although the entirety of film up to this point in the article are all important in their own sense, I believe that the most important frame of time in cinema for Europe came in the 1950’s – 60’s (as far as early film goes). This was the period of time when the world was introduced to filmmakers such as British film-maker Lindsay Anderson, German film-maker Albert Lamorisse who created what could possibly be one of the greatest short films in European histroy with “The Red Ballon,” and  François Truffaut who all had a big part in the emergence and popularity in European film.

Along with those filmmakers from above that helped to make short films so popular in Europe were some of the movements during this time frame that were even more important such as the Free Cinema movement (Britain), French New Wave movement, and the Italian neorealism movement.

The Free Cinema movement was a short period in film in Britain where the idea was to put together films via documentary. The goal was to capture what was actually going on around us in the world without using anything to special to capture it. Normal camera work was used for the time with no special effects. Although the only thing that would normally be moved around would be the sound, a lot of the audio still came from just using the sounds that you would normally here while walking around in the park, in school, or even at the fair which is the case in the short film “O, Dreamland.”

As can be seen from film above, there is no particular plot besides what is actually going on at the fair, which still makes for an interesting film. Oddly enough, it almost feels as if the director was trying to give this film a sort of dark feel about it, which I felt from some of the dark light used as well as the looping, grinding sounds that were repeated in the beginning of the film for the first half or so. Two other very well known Free Cinema Movement films were “Momma Don’t Allow,” by Tony Richardson about a Jazz club and the artists and people that would be there, as well as “Together,” by Lorenza Mazzetti which was about a group of deaf-mutes that lived in a town in London that was torn apart and devastated by bombs and other types of war-like damage.

The idea for the films coming together was made up by Anderson and Mazzetti which is shown in the following statement that they prepared together.

“These films were not made together; nor with the idea of showing them together. But when they came together, we felt they had an attitude in common. Implicit in this attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and the significance of the everyday.As filmmakers we believe that

No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”

The next important movement in film was that of the Italian Neorealism, which was famous for taking a harsh look at what the underbelly of Italian life was, by way of going into the lives of those who live in crime-infested, poor parts of Italy. One of things about these films that made them so interesting and heart-wrenching was that most of the actors were just regular citizens with no profession in acting. So when these people were talking about the poverty and desperation they felt, they truly meant every word of it. One of the biggest films as far as short films go in the Neorealism era of Italy was the film, “Paisan,” by Roberto Rossellini which is an anthology film featuring 6 different episodes about peoples reactions to the Italian part in World War 2 during the time it was happening. It was able to show the grittiness of the poorer parts of town, the desperation the people felt, and the need to rebuild and find the glory they once had after the war.

Although this is only a short clip of the film and its in another language, just by seeing the dark lighting and use of children in what look to be like impovirshed parts of town you can feel what the director was aiming towards.

The last part of European short film I wanted to talk about was the growth of French Film, especially in the 50’s when the French New Wave phase came through, which was influenced by the before mentioned Italian Neorealism, as well as classic Hollywood films that were being produced. The things that the French New Wave was going for was the little things in life that make up the world we live in. They weren’t trying to make documentary’s, just films that didn’t look at the world or life from a fictional stand point, the films were of events that could occur. The biggest and most influential film-maker of this time period was Francois Truffaut, who made a premier film in this category with the short, “Les Mistons,” (The Brats).

As seen in the film, the director is just following the lives and days a few boys who are in love with this women and are jealous of her boyfriend, causing them to travel around following them and teasing them for their enjoyment. This is something that happens on a day to day basis everywhere. It’s kids being kids and makes for a great film. Although the story is fiction, the situation is not, this could happen anywhere.

As Europe continued to grow as a union, its film industry did as well. They made advancements that made film over seas just as popular and respectable, if not more respectable, than in the United States. And it all started with a collective group of films called “Shorts.”

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Early European Short Films

When most people think about the creation of the first major films in the industry of movies, most people will think about the United States or India as being credited for creating the first few films since they are the leaders in the field currently. However, this isn’t always true. Although the United States did help the growth in a large way by moving motion pictures into a larger than life spectacle, there are other nations that should be thanked for the contributions that they put forth during the era when film was just starting to become known in the larger masses.

The First Attempts at Film

The first major motion picture in the European sphere was Georges Meilies, who between the years of 1896 and 1914 directed just over 530 different films, which no matter what way you look at it, is still amazing. His first large commercial success with a film, as well as being his biggest hit as far as his films went was his 1902 short film, “A Trip to the Moon,” which documents exactly what it sounds like it would; a exploration to the moon.

As you can see from the film above, it was still a very primitive era in film industry. However, that is only when looking at if from our perspective in the new millennium. For the time being this was a film that would put people at the edge of their seats. Although Georges Meilies wasn’t able to use narrative from any of the characters to explain what was happening in the film, he relied heavily on the costumes that they were wearing as well as the music that he put to the scenes so that the viewer would know that one scene had ended and another was starting.

Some of the other things that Meilies did in his films were also groundbreaking in a sense. His use of layering from one scene to another instead of just shooting to the next scene with now warning. This can be seen at the one-minute mark in the film where the scientist is drawing up the diagram and it layers into him bringing up the 6 other explorers that would be traveling with him to the moon. He also uses distance in his set design to show that the earth was far away once they had landed on the moon. Although some of the sets he used were cartoonish in how they looked, it almost worked with the black and white in being that it was hard to detect major flaws in design. The city-scape when they are on the roof of the scientist’s building looks like a city in industrial times. The spikes on the moon give the viewers a real look of what they moon may look like to a human that is walking on its surface (no one knew what the moons surface looked like at this time).

Meilies had another notable hit a couple years later in, “The Impossible Voyage,” which again is about travel. This one pertaining to the travels of a group of geographers who attempt to travel around the world by using different means of transportation. Meilies is again known for using tricks with light and photography during this film to make the experience more realistic and mind-blowing to the person who is watching it. Although i wasn’t able to find a full edition of the original release of the film, i was able to find a restored version of the first 10 minutes with color and notes on the film.

While France was ahead of the film industry in Europe for quite a while, it doesn’t mean that other nations on the continent were not doing anything of their own to contribute to the beautiful world of film. One of the better examples of film development in the early years of film as far as technique and experimentation go was the short film, “Santa Claus,” which was directed by G.A. Smith, a British film maker.

Though the film is extremely short (hence the name short-films), it does hold quite a bit of substance for a film that was made in one of the earliest eras of film. Smith was able to introduce the use of double-negatives to achieve the part of the film where the mother turns off the light in the little girls room. He then does this again when the circular scene of the Santa Clause climbing on the little girls roof to deliver presents in the upper right part of the screen. By doing so, Smith was able to show us that the little girl was dreaming in her sleep about what Santa Clause was doing without ever having to leave the same scene that he began shooting in. As Santa goes down the chimney of the house, the viewer can see him coming in through the black velvet curtain into the children’s room, while still making it look like he used the door to gain entrance as well as to leave. So as i said, it may have been a short film, but for 1898, it did have a lot of innovative ideas that helped shape the future of cinema.

So as can be seen, the first few years of major film production were used in more of a phase to mess around with the power of the camera and what could and couldn’t be done with it. Although these film makers had very little do work with as far as special effects go, they were able to use light tricks and other sorts of techniques that have drifted away from modern film production.

Even in the field of animation, the camera was just being used to fool around with things like stop-motion, such is the case in the film, “Matches: An Appeal,” which was directed by Aurthur Cooper of the UK. Like many other films in the early days of film, this was made to help people encourage the troops that were engaged in war. In this case, by sending them matches.

As the years went on during the pre-sound era of film, more countries began to emerge from the European Union to add into the pot that was the film industry such as Italy, Denmark and Sweden (with Italy being the fastest growing.)

Here is a short film that was made in Italy in 1913, showcasing some of the production value they were able to create as well as their strides in slapstick and classical humor. Although there was no exact name of director to add into this, the producer is said to be Armando Pilloti.

As can be seen from the film, although they had no use of audio to let you know what they actors were saying, you can tell what they are trying to get across from the over the top acting. It also helps that his is simple film about a prankster that gets his hands on a fire extinguisher and takes it to the streets for some playful fun. One of the things that was interesting and very cool for a film in this time era was the set design and how easily it was set up. This can been seen in the part of the film where the boy with the fire extinguisher sprays the man on the ladder and he bring down the entire lamp post with him. The director was also able to get across a lot of action while keeping the camera in the same place during the shots.

During this time leading up to the war era it is still believed, at least by myself, that Britain was the leader in short films as far as substance they were putting into it, the production of what they were putting into it, and the ideas they had. Take for example this short film that follows a small segment of a railway for a film idea.


Although this may seem like a boring little film about a train, it is actually extremely clever as far as what they were doing with the train as a basically, a mobile camera. Because of how heavy the cameras were, it was extremely hard to move them from place to place in order to get a shot they wanted, and the idea for a camera that can roll along with you was far down the line, so this specific director decided to use a train as his means to move the camera along. So instead of having to move the camera from spot to spot for 4 miles to show you the country side of Britain, he was able to use the train as his means to show you it in one swoop.

The War Era of Film

Although there was more to the film industry than pro-war or anti-war films during this period of time, I do believe that this was the most important aspect of this time period since it did shape most of the films that were released in Europe since the war was in their own backyards, and the most common use of film for war propaganda were by using short films.

Let it be known that any films that are shown in this area that may address anti-semitic themes are not because I agree with them, just to show the use of short films in those specific countries (Italy and Germany).

This film which was made by Alfred Hitchcock in a French series that was funded by the British ministry of Defense isn’t just a tale of what happens when you cooperate with the Nazi’s of Germany, but it also shows some of the advances that occurred during the past years of cinema. Notice how the camera is able to zoom in and out of situations or roll to face something on the other side of the room that may be off screen without have to cut and go to another shot. The quality in cameras were getting better, which allowed for the quality of films to improve. 

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Invisible State

The film, “Invisible State,” by Aisling Walsh was a very beautiful film and eye-opening in every sense of the phrase. The film looks pretty basic being that a majority of it is just a an Irish-men sitting on a stool talking about the problems and conditions of the people that are put into slave trade, as well as being deported and shipped around the world just trying to find a safe and secure place to live.

This is exactly what i believe the directer was trying to go for in his film though; not trying to out-due the meaning of his film with flashy cinematography and crafty showmanship. He just wanted to get the message across to the viewers that the world is made up of borders that are unfriendly to others who are trying to gain access. And even if they can gain access into the the country, they are quickly shipped out and sent back to whatever place they were trying to escape in the first place.

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European Showerbath

The film, “European Showerbath,” was a short film by Peter Greenaway about the connection between some of the countries in the European Union related to the ones that fall right outside of it.

Although i was not a fan of this film in anyway, i was able to take away from what the filmmaker was trying to say with positive results, or at least what i thought he was trying to get across. The people in the shower are all showering together with the flags of their nation painted on them somewhere on their bodies. They are trying to shower off the image of their nations together so that they are all blended together as one European nation as is shown by the mix of paints on the shower floor. The nations that aren’t given any water to shower are the countries that either can’t afford to be one of the European Nations, or countries that were not invited to be part of this union. The countries that are part of it are trying to use all of the resources for themselves since they have no interest in helping or supporting the poorer countries.

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This film, “Das Rad,” directed by Chris Stenner, Arvid Uibel, and Heidi Wittlinger, was a short film about a couple of rocks that watch as humans progress throughout the years in a rush up until the point where everything besides the rocks are are made up of buildings and infrastructure. At the end of the film all of the infrastructure is fallen and the landscape around the rocks goes back to normal, where their only concern is getting the moss off of their backs.

What i believe the filmmakers were trying to get across in this film was that mother nature is stronger than anything than man could ever put together and that no matter what it is that man does with her land, it will all eventually all go back to the way it was intended to be. Man is only a short being in the history of the earth’s surface, while things that like nature will forever be.

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Although i was not able to find any name of a director for the film, “Inja,” i thought that it was still a very creative, saddening, and beautiful film at once. The film bases around a slave labor farm (at least i believe) that is owned by a white owner. One of the boys who is working on his plantation builds up a relationship with one of the puppies that is on the plantation, which is being raised to help the owner. When the owner sees this, he doesn’t like it and makes the boy stuff the dog into a bag. Once in the bag the owner of the dog begins to kick the dog so that it thinks that the boy did it, making the dog afraid and angry towards the boy. This comes back to hurt the owner later in the film when he has a heart attack and the boy, who is now a man, can’t get to the medicine or the man because the dog is threatening to hurt the boy, being that it’s memories of the boy are now violent.

The shots that the director used in this film are a immaculate look at South Africa that people very rarely get to see besides in films like such. The film also covers the basis of human rights in being that if the owner didn’t treat the boy as if he was something that shouldn’t be loved or appreciated, he would still be alive himself since the boy would have been able to get to him with this heart medication.

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Estes Avenue

“Estes Avenue,” is a short film by Paul Cotter about the multiple things that can take place on the same street at the same time. Some of the people are praying in church for a better life, some people are participating in early morning sexual escapades and others are simply trying to clean up a hair-ball from their cat so they can get a cup of coffee ready for the long morning that they have ahead of them.

Although this wan’t exactly my favorite film we have watched while in this class, i thought it was a highly original idea for a filmmaker to take on; being the different actions that can take place in a small area of time. I just thought that the filmmaker could have a gone a little further into detail, or been more creative with the actions that were occurring. I also thought that the film could have been a little funnier if it did not have any sort of narration to go along with it so that the viewer would have to play the dialouge through in their own heads.

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