The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The lack of title cards and relative dedication to cinematic realism really give this a lovely weight; there’s a dignity to the story being told here, and it’s easy to see why it provided such inspiration for films that came later, both of the western genre it arguably codifies and otherwise.

Dual narratives crafted through composite editing, extensive on-location shooting, dynamism of camera movement, all these techniques are huge for showcasing cinema as its own unique medium, and even setting the aspect of being seminal aside, it’s a well-told story, well-realised in its own right. Of particular note is the ‘robber firing a gun directly at the camera/audience’ sequence, the most fascinating note of which seems to me to be that the director left it for the cinemas to decide whether to place that at the start or end of the film. It doesn’t quite fit neatly into the ending in strict narrative terms, but in terms of the experience and immersed mindset of the film, it works interestingly at either end, and the placement certainly reframes the experience of the film to a degree.

Very well-executed. Four lengths of rope and a shootout.

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