Tuesday, 18 October 2011

An Edison Masterpiece?

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931)
Whatever you may think of him, there is one thing that cannot be denied, when it came to filmmaking – Thomas Edison produced films of a very high picture quality. This is something of a testament to the investment he put into developing the technology and processes needed for filmmaking. 

That said, though, the content of his films very rarely warranted such a prestigious presentation; the film form and narrative quality are incredibly crude and hardly improve in all the time that Edison was producing films.
Today, I was shown a film Edison produced and distributed in 1912: The Land beyond the Sunset. It is, in short, a very precious film! Precious because it is a very rare example of an Edison film that not only looks good but also feels good (or bad, depending on the ending). The plot is simple but, because of its use of a rather dark subtext, it is certainly far in advance of Edison’s other films. The film form, also, feels mature and confident. 

Having never seen this film before I was very surprised at the level of its quality and the choice of its subject matter; it is not at all what you would expect from Edison or the period it was made in. It is hard to imagine that the money grabbing Edison would be capable of producing a silent masterpiece, and yet, here is that silent masterpiece! 

The Land Beyond the Sunset
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