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Gaumont 1912
Nordisk 1911
STAGING THE SILENTS: Theatrical and Pictorial Strategies at Gaumont and Nordisk (1908-1914)

Research project

Fellow: Adriaensens Vito

Supervisor: Paulus Tom

Duration: 01/10/2008 - 01/10/2014

Staging the Silents: Theatrical and Pictorial Strategies at Gaumont and Nordisk (1908-1914) was a PhD project that investigates how specific visual strategies related to lighting, framing and staging adopted from 19th century European bourgeois theater and narrative painting, shaped the visual rhetoric of feature length films produced by the Gaumont (France) and Nordisk (Denmark) film companies between 1908 and 1914, when the European film industry ground to a halt with the start of WWI. 1908 marked the birth of the “art film,” the culmination of the European film industry’s attempts to attract middle-class patrons and legitimize their product as an art form by linking it to the prestige of other media such as literature, theater and the fine arts. At the same time the marked increase in narrative ambition at the advent of the feature film caused filmmakers to adopt visual schemas that were able to bring across increasingly complex narrative situations to the audience.


The key hypothesis of this project is that European filmmakers, exemplified by the two leading companies of the time, turned to a visual rhetoric that would at once appeal and be highly recognizable and decodable to the middle-class audiences that they were courting, and that this rhetoric can be located in the properties of popular 19th century bourgeois theater and narrative painting. This study will identify, clarify and survey the strategies with which these films worked and in which context they did so. 


This project was completed as Velvet Curtains and Gilded Frames: the Art of Early European Cinema, which will be appearing in book form in 2017, published by Edinburgh University Press. 

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