Plzeňské sympozia

Ivan Klimeš

Cinema disaster

pp. 333–340 Czech), Summary 339 (English), 339–340 (Deutsch)

The early days of film often saw fires in cinemas, where highly flammable nitrate materials were used. The worst tragedy of this kind occurred in 1897, when some two hundred people lost their lives at a charity bazaar in Paris. This highly publicized event had its effect on security arrangements at cinemas, which was the main subject dealt with in the first legal regulations to follow in Austria and many other countries. However, the concept of disaster enables us to view the entire period of early film from a different perspective. Film historians refer to the beginnings of film around 1900 as the cinematography of attractions, highlighting the different expectations of viewers than those we know from the later era of narrative film. Early film aimed to bring about a feeling of sensation, shock and fascination, and to satisfy the visual urge to see the unseen and the curious. Early film also saw the development of a special disaster movie culture in its plot dénouements. Fights, crashes, falls and collisions were some of the most frequent visual punchlines of comic images. Cinematographic attractions mirror the changes in modern-day lifestyles in a very particular way.

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