'Bei unseren Helden an der Somme’ (1917): The creation of a “social event’

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Conference Paper
В статье анализируются хроникальные съёмки, которые производились отечественными кинооператорами на фронтах Первой мировой войны, их демонстрация в дореволюционных кинотеатрах и вопрос их сохранения в коллекции Российского государственного архива кинофотодокументов в г. Красногорске
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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:
On the eve of the First World War, the film industry was flourishing in Europe and the United States. A widespread and warmly appreciated spectacle in the popular classes as well as among social elites, cinema contributed powerfully to the extension of mass culture, media and information. The outstanding example of this dazzling development was perhaps the success of Pathé, which was the world’s leading film company until around 1910. In 1918, as business gradually dwindled, the hegemony of the French cinematographic industry disappeared almost entirely, to the benefit of American productions. At the same moment, cinema emerged as a separate art form − an essential part of the new times, the modern age. As Louis Delluc wrote in 1919, ‘an art was born during the war… The time will come when cinema, an entirely new art, will impose its full power.’ The aim of this chapter is to retrace cinematographic activity and its evolution during the war, describing the functioning of what is generally known as ‘propaganda’ through the cinema. We focus on the strategies and stakes established within the framework of ‘cultural mobilisation’, and offer a critical reading of certain major and recurrent themes on the screen and their relation to the audience in both news and documentaries on the war and in patriotic fictional film. We use various sources for the conditions of production and distribution, and the place of films in societies at war.
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Propaganda has been an integral part of human history, and while the documentation of conflict through film began in the middle of the nineteenth century, it was not until the First World War that the production and distribution of war films as propaganda became a mass phenomenon. Moving images of the war proliferated in all Western countries at an unprecedented rate. This thesis explores the role of wartime propaganda films in Britain, France, and Germany during the First World War by assessing the achievements and missteps of cinematic variations on the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Although these films achieved varying degrees of success as both propaganda films and war documentaries, they failed to alter the fundamental opinion of the masses. Rather, they strengthened and reinforced existing attitudes about the war. More importantly, the films shaped the way people would remember both the battle and the war in future generations.
While the Netherlands tried to maintain neutrality during World War I, the belligerent nations watched the country and its public opinion closely. At the same time, the French, English, and German authorities used propaganda to influence Dutch public opinion. The famous documentary film The Battle of the Somme (1916) is seen as a prime example. Its critical reception in the Netherlands has been studied before, but its challenge to the cause of neutrality has escaped close attention. Not only did Dutch ministers, mayors, film distributors, and cinema owners get involved in the marketing and regulation of war propaganda, but so did the intelligence services and propaganda departments of the warring countries. This article shows that at least three films about the battle of the Somme were shown in Dutch cinemas - French, English, and German - and that all of them were part of a struggle to secure the public's favour.
For an important analysis ofBoS, see Samuel Hynes,A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture
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Central Office for Foreign Service, Potsdam, are full of complaints about distribution for the entire year of 1917 Harry Graf Kessler, in the Swiss Embassy, was particularly upset at the fact that a number of scheduled screenings had to be cancelled for want of a print
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For an important analysis of , see Samuel Hynes
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Abteilung Potsdam, Bundesarchiv. A member of the Imperial German Embassy in Stockholm also discussed the film: “I should also not neglect to report that recently, courtesy of the Entente, one can attend screenings in Swedish film theaters of an actual, generally truthful war film
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