By Paul Cuff
This publication explores the construction and destruction of Abel Gance’s so much formidable movie undertaking, and seeks to provide an explanation for why his meteoric occupation used to be so approximately extinguished on the finish of silent cinema. through 1929, Gance used to be France’s most renowned director. Acclaimed for his technical innovation and visible mind's eye, he was once additionally admonished for the over the top size and price of his productions. Gance’s first sound movie, La Fin du Monde (1930), used to be a severe and fiscal catastrophe so nice that it approximately destroyed his profession. yet what went fallacious? Gance claimed it was once advertisement sabotage when critics blamed the director’s inexperience with new expertise. Neither excuse is passable. in accordance with broad archival learn, this publication re-investigates the cultural historical past and aesthetic outcomes of Gance’s transition from silent filmmaking to sound cinema. La Fin du Monde is printed to be just one portion of a unprecedented cultural venture to rework cinema right into a common faith and propagate its strength throughout the League of countries. From unfinished motion pictures to unrealized social revolutions, the reader is given a desirable journey of Gance’s misplaced cinematic utopia.
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Extra resources for Abel Gance and the End of Silent Cinema: Sounding out Utopia
Outside, Gance cuts to a shot of the sun setting on a dark horizon. The shaft of sunlight that falls through Diaz’s window dwindles and expires. This shot then fades into darkness and the title ‘Fin’ appears over a painted image of the crucified Christ. Gance’s astonishing, violent finale brings the film to an end with this image of human suffering, a mortal son sacrificed by a divine father. A. 1920: 3). Certainly, Diaz’s accusation becomes rather clearer if one interprets the word ‘Sun’ to be a substitute for ‘God’.
Equally, the appearance of Novalic in ECCE HOMO marks Gance’s very first representation of a social and political visionary, transcending the purely artistic hero of Damor in LA DIXIÈME SYMPHONIE. The images of Novalic preaching in the asylum, wearing a billowing white robe and sporting a Christ-like beard and long hair, are a foretaste of the images of Gance as Jean Novalic a decade later in LA FIN DU MONDE. Griffith’s INTOLERANCE (1916), though Burel’s photography and Gance’s careful control of composition and back-lighting are even more impressive.
He fortified his ideology with a host of eclectic intellectual sources: from the Christian mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius and Jacob Böhme to the atheistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Gance thought that cinema could reconcile competing ideologies through its expressive powers; filmmaking was a revelatory means of communication that could break down the barriers of culture, creed, and nation: Cinema is a universal language, the Esperanto of images. […] We must always consider that Frenchmen, Spaniards, Germans, Anglo-Saxons, Chinese, or Latin Americans might sit side-by-side in theatres, and we must take advantage of their presence so that these brothers become powerfully aware that they are united by a common soul.