Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Great Train Robbery (1903 film)

Directed, edited, and co-shot by Edwin S. Porter and written by Porter and Scott Marble, The Great Train Robbery is a twelve-minute silent film about a train robbery. Among one of the earliest films to come aboard in the 20th Century, it is also considered one of the very Westerns as it displays everything into what cinema could do. The result is one of the early triumphs in the art form that would become cinema.

The film is a simple story as it revolves around four guys robbing a train and evading the authorities. All of which is told in twelve minutes with no sound nor music as it’s all about image and what it is saying. It’s a film that features some unique compositions as it’s shot by director Edwin S. Porter and co-cinematographer Blair Smith in a grainy style with very little color though it is shown in a sepia-like color due to its preservation. Yet, there is a sense of urgency into the action that happens as Porter definitely showcases something that might’ve happened in those times. Even as he knows where to place the camera though it never moves with the exception of a scene where it’s shot on a train where the camera is shaky.

Though the acting might not seem great as the moments where characters are show are over-dramatic, it does play into the idea that these things did happen during the west. Moments involving gunfire and explosions are presented with bits of color that was painted on the film as well as a few scenes involving characters in dresses. It plays into a sense of what it was like while Porter knows where to place the camera to capture all of the characters in the film. Even as his editing presents early elements of cross-cutting for the scenes in the robbery and the authorities trying to catch the robbers. All of which plays into the thrill of the west as it ends on a major note with this shot that plays into the power of cinema.

The Great Train Robbery is a phenomenal film from Edwin S. Porter that has to be seen for anyone interested in the art of film. Especially as it’s the film where the genre that would become the western comes from in all of its elements. In the end, The Great Train Robbery is a sensational film from Edwin S. Porter.

© thevoid99 2015

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