The Darling of the Masses
The Lumieres themselves hadn’t expected that their film shows would be runaway hits. What started as a minor item in the theatre began to steal the limelight almost entirely for itself. Soon no theatre shows were considered complete without film shows, by the growing crowd with a wild appetite for entertainment. Cinema became the darling of the masses.
The brother duo clearly understood that no more the audience could be fed with home movies, for they were now accustomed with the moving images and were obviously demanding more. So the Lumeires’ men went out with cameras to shoot the unseen and began their treasure hunt for wild musings that would keep the audience hooked. They were sent to far off lands to shoot things which were never seen by people.
On their quest for the films the camera men invented different kind of shots and camera movements. Some of them were nothing more than an accident and few others were perfectly designed and crafted. The travelling shot was interestingly invented while the camera was mounted behind a leaving train in Jerusalem in 1896. Here it has to be noted that the cameras which had never seen anything outside France through its eyes just about a year ago has managed to reach as far as Jerusalem. This shows evidently the cravings of the camera men to hunt for new things to sustain the public excitement.
Also the first crane shot was achieved while the camera was mounted on a lift in the Eiffel tower. Though we might notice great achievements during this period, all were only on the technical side. Nothing could be named ground breaking in terms of cinema as an art. This shows clearly that the tryst of the Lumiere Brothers to show just moving images did not cease.
The cinema fever swept across Europe many countries attempting to make films. Let us briefly see some of them worth highlighting. The British also joined the band wagon of the French inventiveness in film making. It was the British film makers who began to join scenes together to tell a story. To be precise they began to edit their films. Close ups were used in early films like Grandma’s reading Glasses (1900).
In spite of their creativity the British film industry in its early days did not manage to attract the viewers for going to films were considered less respectable. Cinema in England gained prestige only after the Royal appearance. Perhaps the Brits wanted a Royal touch in everything. Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901 was shot in which the new king Edward VII riding on a horse had graced the occasion with his presence. In fact he did stop the procession for a moment, making the shot timeless, for the king himself had posed for the camera. It became legendary.
As mentioned earlier since the cinema was immensely popular among the working class, to reach them many had travelling film companies, which made their own films. It is such travelling theaters that became a huge success in India in the pre-independent India, dearly called as ‘Touring Talkies’ which as the name says showcased talkies.
At the brink of the 19th century, there was another contemporary without mentioning whom the history of cinema would never be complete and he takes us back to France. He deserves a separate article in this series on History of Cinema.