Friday, September 11, 2009

Rough Sea at Dover (1895)

There is something strangely haunting about this short (very short) actualitie piece shot by Birt Acres and R.W. Paul in what must have been one of their earliest efforts. It provides an interesting contrast to Edison's films in terms of the use of a location. Whereas Edison preferred to showcase a performer, making location a secondary issue of concern strictly for practical purposes, Acres and Paul showcase the sea as a subject in itself.

Shot on an apparently stormy, dour day at a pier at Dover, the filmmakers capture the raw energy made possible by the scope of the subject (the sea would return as a favorite subject for many future films, and its continual movement still possesses a hypnotic quality and a strangely cinematic element, which Griffith used to such good advantage when he shot his first film on the shores of Santa Monica beach nearly 15 years later).

The film also differs from the Edison approach in its use of two shots, one a full view of the pier, and the second a medium shot, taken a little closer to provide a greater detailed view of the waves.

Unfortunately, the surviving print (featured on Kino's "The Movies Begin" DVD set for those interested in seeing it) is in pretty rough condition itself. It would serve as a nice reminder to DVD producers that perhaps another set is in order, consisting of more of these early pioneering efforts from around the world, in order to shed some light on lesser-seen films by people like Acres and Paul.

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