The Early Cinema: Magic


A Pipe Dream (1904) Biograph

In none of the short films shown here does the camera move from one place. Even in the film taken from the train, the camera is still while he train moves. The earliest films don't show any sense of modern film language. With few exceptions, they don't use close ups, or intercuts, or cross cutting, or camera movement. Instead, they draw traditions of illusion taken from the stage and from poular culture.

This film probably derives from "magic lantern" shows, popular in the decades after the Civil War, in which slides were projected on a blank screen. Skilled operators would project sillouhettes, or images at different sizes, to simulate tricks something like those in this film, taken by the famous early cameraman Billy Bitzer. Here again we can see the fascination with magical transformation