The Great War: Cinema, Propaganda, and The Emancipation of Film Language

Open access

Abstract

The relation between war and cinema, propaganda and cinema is a most intriguing area, located at the intersection of media studies, history and film aesthetics. A truly tragic moment in human history, the First World War was also the first to be fought before film cameras. And while in the field, airborne reconnaissance became cinematic (Virilio), domestic propaganda occupied the screen of the newly emergent national cinemas, only to see its lucid message challenged and even subverted by the fast-evolving language of cinema. Part one of this paper looks at three non-fiction films, released in 1916: Battle of Somme, With Our Heroes at the Somme (Bei unseren Helden an der Somme) and Battle of Somme (La Bataille de la Somme), as paradigmatic propaganda takes on the eponymous historical battle from British, German and French points of view. Part two analyses two war-time Hollywood melodramas, David Wark Griffith’s Hearts of the World (1918) and Allen Holubar’s The Heart of Humanity (1919), and explains the longevity of the former with the powerful “text effect” of the authentic wartime footage included. Thus, while these WWI propaganda works do validate Virilio’s ideas of the integral connections between technology, war and cinema, and between cinema and propaganda, they also herald the emancipation of post-WWI film language.

Badsey, S. D. 1983. Battle of the Somme: British War-Propaganda. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 3, no. 2: 99–115.

Bardi, Ugo. 2014. The WWI and the Rise of Propaganda. http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.ca/2014/07/the-great-war-and-rise-of-propaganda.html. Last accessed 30. 06. 2015.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1989. Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bauman, Zygmunt and Riccardo Mazzeo. 2012. On Education: Conversations with Riccardo Mazzeo. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bazin, André. 1967. What is Cinema? Vol I. University of California Press.

Bazin, André. 1971. What is Cinema? Vol II. University of California Press.

Blom, Philipp. 2015. Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918–1938. New York: Basic Books.

Bordwell, David. 1985. Narration in the Fiction Film. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Curry, Ramona. 1995. How Early German Film Stars Helped Sell the War(es). In Film and the First World War, eds. Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp, 139–148. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

DeBauche, Leslie M. 2000. The United States’ Film Industry and World War One. In The First World War and Popular Cinema: 1914 to the Present, ed. Michael Paris, 138–161. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Dibbets, Karel and Bert Hogenkamp. 1995. Introduction. In Film and the First World War, 10–15. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Dibbets, Karel and Wouter Groot. 2010. Which Battle of the Somme? War and neutrality in Dutch cinemas, 1914–1918. Film History vol. 22, no. 4, Cinema During the Great War: 440–452. Indiana University Press.

Gunning, Tom. 1990. The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectator and the Avant-Garde. In Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, eds. Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker, 56–62. London: BFI Publishing.

Hayward, Susan. 2013. Key Concepts in Cinema Studies. London and New York: Routledge.

Hodgkins, John. 2008. Hearts and Minds and Bodies: Reconsidering the Cinematic Language of The Battle of the Somme. Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies vol. 38, no. 1. (Spring): 9–19.

Jowett, Garth S. and Victoria O’Donnell. 2004. Propaganda and Persuasion. Los Angeles, London: Sage Publications.

Kellner, Douglas. Virilio, War, and Technology: Some Critical Reflections. http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/kellner.html. Last accessed 25. 06. 2017.

Kelly, Andrew. 1997. Cinema and the Great War. London: Routledge.

Kenez, Peter. 1995. Russian Patriotic Films. In Film and the First World War, eds. Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp, 36–42. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Klawans, Stuart. 2000. How the First World War Changed Movies Forever. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/19/movies/film-how-the-first-world. Last accessed 30. 06. 2017.

Koszarski, Richard. 2004. Von – The Life and Films of Erich Von Stroheim. Limelight Editions.

Kracauer, Siegfried. 2004 [1947]. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film. Princeton: Princeton Classic Editions.

Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McWilliams, Donald. 2009. The Battle of the Somme. Journal of Film Preservation (International Federation of Film Archives) vol. 79/80, no. 5: 130–133.

Messinger, Gary S. 1993. An Inheritance Worth Remembering: the British Approach to Official Propaganda During the First World War. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 13, no. 2: 117–127.

Morrissey, Priska. 2010. Out of the Shadows: The Impact of the First World War on the Status of Studio Cameramen. Film History vol. 22, no. 4, Cinema During the Great War: 479–487. Indiana University Press.

Reeves, Nicholas. 1996. Through the Eye of the Camera: Contemporary Cinema Audiences and Their Experience of War in the Film Battle of the Somme. In Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced, eds. Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle, 780–798. London: Leo Cooper.

Reeves, Nicholas. 1997. Cinema, Spectatorship and Propaganda: Battle of the Somme (1916) and its Contemporary Audience. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 17, no. 1: 5–28.

Reeves, Nicholas. 1999. Official British Film Propaganda. In The First World War and Popular Cinema: 1914 to the Present, ed. Michael Paris, 27–50. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Robin, Regine. 1992. Socialist Realism: An Impossible Aesthetics. Stanford University Press.

Rother, Rainer. 1995. “Bei unseren Helden an der Somme” (1917): the creation of a “social event.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 15, no. 4: 525–542.

Rutherford, Anne. 2002. Cinema and Embodied Affect. Senses of Cinema. http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/25/embodied_affect.html. Last accessed 10. 08. 2017.

Smithers, Roger. 1993. A Wonderful Idea of the Fighting: The Question of Fakes in The Battle of the Somme. Historical Journal of Film, Television and Radio vol. 13, no. 2: 149–168.

Stevenson, Michael. 2008. Notes on Paul Virilio’s War and Cinema. http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/2008/03/10/notes-on-paul-virilios-war-and-cinema/ Last accessed 30. 06. 2017.

Stojanova, Christina. 2011. Beyond Text and Image: Péter Forgács and his Wittgenstein Tractatus. In Wittgenstein at the Movies: Cinematic Investigations, eds. C. Stojanova and Béla Szabados. Lexington Books.

Sorlin, Pierre. 2004. The French Newsreels of the First World War. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television vol. 24, no. 4: 507–515.

Toeplitz, Jerzy. 1995. The Cinema in Eastern and Central Europe Before the Guns of August. In Film and the First World War, eds. Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp, 17–27. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Usai, Paolo Cherchi. 1995. An Archival View. In Film and the First World War, eds. Karel Dibbets and Bert Hogenkamp, 237–249. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Véray, Laurent. 2010. 1914–1918, the First Media War of the Twentieth Century: The Example of French Newsreels. Film History vol. 22, no. 4, Cinema During the Great War: 408–425.

Virilio, Paul. 1986. Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology. Columbia University.

Virilio, Paul. 1989. War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception. London: Verso.

Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies

The Journal of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

Journal Information

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 769 674 70
PDF Downloads 529 497 56