Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Greco-Turkish War of 1897

Sea Fighting in Greece (1897)

This early short from Georges Méliès combines his knowledge of special effects with his interest in recreating contemporary events, in the style of newsreel footage, for the edification of audiences. Here, Méliès takes on the depiction of a foreign war for an audience safe and sound in peaceful Paris.

Sea Fighting in Greece1

A backdrop shows a seascape, complete with a battleship in the background, while the foreground is an articulated stage that rocks side to side, in semblance of the deck of a ship. A single cannon points stage left, and Méliès himself, in the coat of an officer, peers through a spyglass. Suddenly, he summons his crew to the deck and they man the cannon, firing at an unseen enemy, apparently to the port side of the ship (assuming that it is understood to be sailing away from the camera). Now, Méliès turns his spyglass toward the camera and the drew looks intently in our direction, apparently sighting another enemy. There are two bursts of smoke, and one of the crew falls to the deck, apparently hit. Smoke billows out from the deck. The other men scamper to form a bucket brigade, tossing water at the smoke, while one tends to his fallen comrade.

Sea Fighting in Greece

This movie was intended to represent the Greco-Turkish War, which was raging in another part of Europe at the time, making this a “ripped from the headlines” movie. In fact, naval battles were not a major factor in this war, but it was expected that such fighting could break out at any moment, and Méliès may simply have been interested in anticipating this, or in trying out the technique of the rolling ship and the cannon blasts. The articulated stage would be used again in Star Film #112 (this was released as #110), “Between Dover and Calais”, where it is mobilized for comedic effect rather than action and suspense. While audiences were less experienced in decoding motion pictures at this time, it seems likely that most understood this to be a dramatic recreation of events at sea, not the real thing.

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown

Starring: Georges Méliès

Run Time: 1 Min, 3 secs

You can watch it for free: here (no music) or here (with music).

The Surrender at Tournavos (1897)

Alternate Titles: La Prise de Tournavos, La Prise de Tournavos par le Troupes du Sultan

This is a reenactment of a current event done by Georges Méliès in a studio. Similar to “The Dreyfus Affair,” Méliès created a kind of newsreel by having actors portray action from newspapers in motion for the screen.

Surrender of Tournavos_(Star_Film_106,_1897)We see a fairly small stage, showing the interior courtyard of a fort with four defenders, who are firing over the wall at an unseen enemy. Soon, the enemy breaks in through a gate, and the defenders run inside a building (exit stage left). The attackers, who we can see are wearing fezzes, run in through the gate and find their way blocked by a locked door. Most of them run back out the gate while a demolitions man places a bomb on the door to the building. It explodes and the attackers run back in, an officer urging them on as bullets start to fly from inside. The officer is hit and goes down but the soldiers press the attack as the movie reel ends.

This movie is quite action-packed, and like action films ever since, no one is ever seen to reload, although we see impressive bursts of smoke from their guns. The event it portrays is a scene from the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, which would for European audiences invoke the image of a Christian nation besieged by Muslim invaders, a common theme in literature and history. Méliès dispenses with his fanciful set design to make a quite realistic fort set, although to any modern viewer it is still obviously a set. Great care also seems to have gone into the uniforms of the Greeks and the Turks. As far as watching it today, it’s important to remember that it would most likely have been accompanied by live narration that explained what was on the screen and also that an audience in 1897 would probably be familiar with the situation from reading the newspapers. Viewed in silence, without context, it doesn’t seem to “mean” much to us today, but it would have been quite thrilling at the time.

Director: Georges Méliès

Camera: Unknown (possibly Georges Méliès)

Starring: Unknown (possibly Georges Méliès)

Run Time: 1 Min

You can watch it for free: here.