Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)
This is one of the major contenders for the title of “first motion picture” and is, in fact, the subject of a recent documentary called “The First Film” which you can read about here. I’m not really concerned with the claim, but I suspect that it will top my “Films by Year” list for some time to come (unless someone discovers something even older!). Whatever the decision on that debate, it is a moving picture that is well past its century mark, and thus deserving of a place on this blog. It is very short, but undeniably captures movement. The image is much clearer than in the “Monkeyshines” experiments, although I’m not certain if that’s because Louis Le Prince made a better camera than Edison’s lab, or if it’s just been better preserved. In any event, Le Prince made the more interesting image by virtue of shooting outside in his garden, rather than in a sterile studio space, and by capturing several people moving in his very first image. Especially noteworthy are the women; women would be rather alien to the Black Maria at first, and even after they were admitted, were usually there as some kind of spectacle, ala Annie Oakley or Annabelle Moore. These women are, like those seen in Lumière films, simply natural women, dressed as they would on any day, moving in mostly normal ways. I say mostly normal, because if you pay attention, you’ll see that one of them is walking backwards. I have no idea why that should be the case, either she was told to do that or else she tried to have a little joke at the expense of the inventor – you see, Louis, your movies run backward! Back to the drawing board…
Director: Louis Le Prince
Camera: Louis Le Prince
Cast: Adolphe Le Prince, Harriet Hartley, Joseph Whitley, Sarah Whitley
Run Time: 2 seconds
You can watch it at the top of this page or, if that link breaks, here.