Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Great Train Robbery


Directed by Edwin S. Porter, USA, 1903, 10 minutes

Source: YouTube

“The Great Train Robbery” is probably one of the best known classical cinema shorts of the early nineteen hundreds. Directed by Edwin S. Porter this film depicts a daring train robbery by a group of bandits and the ordeal that follows. While this doesn’t sound like much of a story compared to most modern shorts, the ironic thing is that I chose this film because of its story. This film in my opinion is one of the best classical pieces of story telling out there.

“The Great Train Robbery” is able to tell a story in ten minutes that while simplistic follows my one major rule in film. This rule is that the film should to immerse the audience in a universe without them questioning it or trying to figure it out. For a film that was made in 1903, it does a spectacular job of creating a universe that is believable. Ironically the ability to immerse someone into another universe is one of my biggest complaints against many short films. While some do a great job at doing this, those who simply plop a audience someplace irritate me. Why should the audience have to think about what is going on, that’s the directors job!

Beyond that, for it’s time the movie is fairly typical when it comes to the over exaggerated acting and it’s piano soundtrack. The only really big complaint that I had is when one of the engineer’s attacks a bandit with a shovel and the bandit kills him, they jump cut from the same angle. While I know it’s so they can put the sack man in and try to disguise the switch, they really should have switched camera angles for a better effect. Finally, there were some scenes that really should have been cut out such as the engineer filling up the train with more water. It was unnecessary and removing it would speed things along a bit more. Overall, for its time “The Great Train Robbery” is a solid short film even if it was a feature film in 1903.

1 comment:

haley schattner said...

I like this film because, as you state, has a simple story that can lead to many conclusions. I did not notice the shovel cut you describe, but I don't like the shot where the robbers make all of the passengers get off of the train to steal their valuables. To me, and I believe at the time this film was made, furs were very expensive. This fact holding true, I do not understand why the robbers to not steal one woman's fur scarf. She is the lightest person in the shot, both wearing white and in the sun, so her scarf is obvious enough to be taken. Why not steal her furs? Obviously, the furs around her neck are describing her class system, otherwise, why is she wearing it?