Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Dreyfus Affair (L'Affaire Dreyfus, 1899)

One of the most ambitious films made up to its time, this 11-part historical re-creation is a departure for Georges Méliès from the fantasy and special effects films with which he is most often associated.

The film, written and directed by Méliès, depicts the events of Alfred Dreyfus' arrest, court martial and imprisonment, and began production concurrent with the actual proceedings of the Dreyfus trial. As with Méliès' other historical re-creations, such as THE CORONATION OF EDWARD VII (1902), he took advantage of the medium's capability to provide vivid depictions of current events with a documentary-like realism (all filmed on meticulously-designed sets inside Méliès' studio in Montreuil).

The "Fight of the Reporters" sequence, in which a riot erupts among the journalists covering the court martial, is remarkably effective in engulfing the audience in the action, as dozens of reporters scurry toward and around the camera. Méliès' use of screen space here is unusual for its time, and quite a stylistic departure from his usual proscenium staging.

No comments: