Roundhay Garden Scene

Cinema had to start somewhere and this little scene from 1888 would be where. This short little film is considered the oldest surviving film in existence. It was made by Louis Le Prince in October, 1888. The scene itself is a very simple one. It simply shows, for about 2 seconds, several people walking in a circle. That’s it. Nothing more. With these couple of seconds, however, we are transported to the beginning of an art form. I will include the video, which is posted on Youtube, at the end of this article for you to view.

Now of course there were major developments that took place before this film, but this is where it all came together for the first time in the format that we know now. I love films from the 19th century because it is a glimpse into a different world. It could be because that I love history and I always seem to feel nostalgia for time periods I never lived in, but I think a lot of people could get something different from Roundhay Garden. Just look at how far we have come since this film was made. Now we’re incorporating computer visual effects, and are now at the point where 4k resolution isn’t enough!

Film is a window into the past. The reason that films from the 19th century intrigue me so much is because they were nothing more than actuality films. Films that just showed little snippets of life, even if they were staged. There was rarely any story, (of course there were exceptions to this rule), and they were novelty items made to show people of the time moving pictures. Every time I see one of these films I find myself wishing that cinema, or at least photography, existed a couple hundred years earlier! How I wish I could see photographs or moving pictures from the 1700s or 1600s. How strange and delightful it would be. However, as far as cinema is concerned, I can only journey back to October, 1888. Photography I can journey back as far as the 1830s! Either way, these early films always make me wonder how life was back then, and give me a little glimpse into the past.


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