A brief History: Combat naval en Grèce

(Sea Fighting in Greece)

This short film by Georges Méliès (1861-1938) belongs to the genre of reconstructed topical events, a speciality that the film maker had less experience of.  In the very first few hours the film makes every effort to reconstruct current affairs and real events, but a lot of them are impossible to film. Méliès quickly adopts the approach of reconstructing reality in a studio with the help of photos and illustrations published in the press, as was the case for the Dreyfus Affair.  It was sometimes even possible for him to film the reconstruction in advance so the spectator could relive the event while it was still a burning issue!


This naval combat belongs to a series of topical events devoted to the Greek-Turkish war that Méliès filmed in spring 1897. Also called the Thirty Days War, Crete’s rebellion against the domination of the Ottoman Empire, directed by sultan Abdülhamid II (1842-1918) was the reason behind this battle. In the beginning of 1897 King George the 1st’s Greece (1845-1913) sent troops to support Crete in the hope of extending and unifying the Hellenic territory.  War broke out on the 17th April 1897. Despite its mastery of the seas Greece was quickly defeated.  At the end of the battle Crete secured its autonomy and declared its union with Greece in 1908.


The ship’s pitching and tossing was achieved thanks to a structured decor showing just how much stage experience the film maker had.  This special effect, still almost unheard of in films gave the spectators of that time a feeling of realism without equal.  It was thanks to this technical device that this work could be identified when John Barnes (1920-) found it in the National Film Archive (BFI) collection in London in 1988. In fact, the movement of the machinery is noticeably the same as that of another film made by Méliès, Between Calais and Dover filmed with the same decor. The film, soon to celebrate its hundredth birthday, had remained hidden in the institution’s catalogue under the wrong title!


The original music for this film was composed by Antonio Coppola in 2009. 


The Collection

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