Alfred Machin – Belgium 1914

La Fille de Delft
R: Alfred Machin. B: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeuil. D: Germaine Kaisen, Fernand Gravey, Blanche Montel, Max Péral, Henri Goidsen, Harzé, Richard. P: Pathé Frères / Belge Cinéma Film. Bel 1914
Print: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
Dutch and French titles

“This type of melodramatic love story was of course well-worn even by 1914 standards, but Machin manages to make it worthwhile and even quite touching through his controlled compositions of rural Dutch (actually Belgian) landscapes and relaxed staging practices. Surely there are also some very impressive and spectacular images to be found here (aerial views, a balloon crash, a thunderstorm, a fire), but most of the time we are invited to observe the characters walking through finely framed landscapes, past diagonal rows of tulips, past the sturdiness of the in hindsight often sinister, or cursed windmills. There are framings through windows and doorways, and characters are placed in detailed sets that allow simultaneous foreground and background action. Movements are deliberate but not rushed; we get the rhythm of life, not of dramatic development.
In Machin’s images there is always a lot to look at, as small figures can be observed moving about in the image’s distant depths. Cineteca curator Mariann Lewinsky referred to Machin’s trust in his audience’s ‘aesthetic patience’, a phrasing that I liked because there is indeed a palpable sense of the director’s faith in the subtlety of the detailed image that would please viewers. As such the rhythm between shots and within the image is comfortably slow, we can follow the story and take in its world and it never gets dull.”
Anke Brouwers: Les Trucs de Machin: La fille de Delft and Maudite soit la guerre

Maudite soit la guerre
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul, Paul Flon. D: Baert, Suzanne Berni, Albert Hendrickx, Nadia d’Angély, Henri Goidsen, Fernand Crommelyn. P: Belge Cinéma Film. Bel 1914.
Print: Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique
Dutch titles, Engl. subtitles

“Alfred Machin was Belgium’s preeminent director of the 1910s. He never seems to have seen a windmill he didn’t want to film, then burn down or blow up. Machin enjoyed recording Belgian folk culture, particularly village dancers, as is evident in classic one-reelers like Le Moulin maudit (The Accursed Mill, 1909), and he had a fondness for jungle cats like Mimur the leopard*. Each of the Machin features I saw shed light on my research questions. Le Diamant noir (The Black Diamond) confirmed that the European tableau style was by 1913 achieving considerable intricacy. (…) In Machin’s La Fille de Delft (The Girl from Delft, 1914), the tableau depth cooperates with some muted cutting. (…) Simpler in its drama and staging is Machin’s official classic, Maudite soit la guerre (Cursed Be War, 1914). (…) Released in May of 1914, Machin’s anti-war film now seems a futile warning. The Archive has restored the original’s Pathécolor, creating images of great loveliness. Some scenes show stenciled color, which helps articulate the planes of shots arrayed in depth. At other moments, deep red tinting enhances the battle scenes, notably one of an exploding dirigible. In all, this outstanding restoration of Maudite soit la guerre reminds us of what audiences actually saw — films of deeply felt emotion, often accentuated by spectacular action like that on display today, and employing color with both intensity and delicacy.”
David Bordwell’s website on cinema

* Machin’s Chasse à la panthère

>>> on this website: Machin in AfricaMachin – A French Director in BelgiumAlfred Machin-1Alfred Machin-2

>>> more about Maudite soit la guerre: see my essay “Als das Morden im Kino begann” on this site