Saturday, 21 February 2015

1901: Scrooge, or Marley's Ghost

Scrooge, or Marley's Ghost

Or even "A Christmas Carol". We're starting to get into serious attempts at story-telling now, though sadly only three and a half minutes of this 11-minute epic survive. It's included on the BFI DVD, "Dickens Before Sound".
It's early days, so what passes for screen drama involves a locked-off camera pointed at a painted backdrop, with a company of actors mugging and gesticulating as if their myopic grannies were sitting right at the back of the cinema -it's not even acting so much as a catalogue of theatrical shorthand.
Technically, it's already conventional in comparison to Melies, with double-exposure effects telegraphed in advance by the presence of, say, a broad black curtain for the double-exposed characters to show up against. Nevertheless, though, it no doubt did the job for audiences of the time. It relies on knowledge of the story to communicate its full meaning, but since we still make films today for people who have already read the book we can't fault it for that, and its worth saluting just for pushing the boundaries and trying to get people to sit still through 11 minutes of film - something that seems to be more of a challenge now with each passing year.