Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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This film is widely considered the first feature film, an infamous relic of the first days of American cinema. Directed by Edwin Porter, it’s a silent film depicting a successful train robbery and then eventual capture of some Wild Western thieves. The plot is narrative and in my opinion, pretty courageous for a silent film to tackle such an action-based plot with plenty of twists and turns and continuous scenes in new locations. Time is handled successfully, with new scenes indicating what is happening during the robbery and what happens after. The film seems to be a cinematic base for the exciting Wild West films and heist films that came after it. The thing that is most striking for me as I view these silent films is how perfectly the story is communicated without any words, even on the grand scale of a train robbery. The camera is usually too far away to capture facial expressions, but emotions and complications are expressed beautifully with the actor’s bodies. The music, though perhaps not originally what played as audiences viewed the film in the cinema, also works to convey the urgency in the story.

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Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 13, 2011 at 11:34 pm

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