Chapter

Cinema

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Abstract

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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The Australian Graves Detachment, a unit over 11 hundred men, was formed in March 1919 on the Western Front. Its mission was to exhume and re-bury the war dead in a small area of Northern France where the Australian Imperial Force had fought. While war memorialization and grief are significant fields of research in First World War studies, much remains to be written with regard to the processes of burying the millions of dead. Little, for example, has been written about the men who undertook the daunting tasks of exhuming and burying. This article seeks to contribute to this emerging area of inquiry by exploring how discipline was enforced at the Australian Graves Detachment through a range of strategies such as negotiation and care for both the men’s physical and mental wellbeing. It argues that at a time where inflexible military discipline and justice were difficult to enforce, such non-coercive forms of control proved more effective for disciplining the men than formal military sanctions. This article first examines the nature of the work undertaken by the Australian Graves Detachment. Second, it turns to the disciplinary issues which arose from the ranks. Third, the article analyses the strategies put in place by the Commanding Officer of the Detachment to maintain discipline within the unit. In particular, the article highlights how entertainment played a key role in maintaining discipline and morale within the detachment, providing the men with a wide variety of amusing activities that kept them under their officers’ watch and control. Sports, games, theatre, movies, the camera club, afternoon teas and other forms of entertainment insured that men had as little idle time as possible. Entertainment became the cornerstone of the Commanding Officer’s attempts to limit misconduct, and to ensure that the unit would complete its mission.
Article
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.
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