Silent Cinema

Cinema and History

This series took place onFrom to

Román Gubern (series coordinator)


Although all films provide a historical framework, inasmuch as that they reflect a certain aspect or the ideology of the period in which they were produced, there is a wide range of productions that are expressly about the (sometimes remote) past, and which have resulted in a sizeable genre, set in the ancient Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, Napoleon’s campaigns, the slave period of the United States, World War One, the Vietnam War, etc. But, while they speak to us about a remote past, the events recounted are usually examined from a contemporary ideological standpoint. Thus, although the screen conjures up a history of slavery in Pericles’s Greece or in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century, it would be hardpressed to defend the institution of slavery, today universally condemned for ethical reasons. Therefore historical drama is often said to reveal more about the period and country in which the film was made, more about the present than the past, through its omissions, the unsaid, which is sometimes more eloquent than what is depicted on the screen.

This contextual influence was more evident when productions were made in totalitarian regimes with propagandistic aims, as occurred in the Soviet Union. Thus, the famous Russian battleship Potemkin, whose crew revolted against the despotic regime of the Czars in 1905 and whose feat S. M. Eisenstein recounted in his respected film Battelship Potemkin, was taken prison and sent home, a fundamental detail the film omits. And it is well known that the war films made during the two world wars of last century heeled their propaganda towards the national side to which their producers belonged.

Historical dramas often uses narrative resources, such as a love story or a family drama, to frame them in a historical backdrop. The aims of this is to introduce what the Americans call human interest into confusing and disperse collective conflicts and thus secure the spectator’s interest and affinity with the episodes closest to them for their human warmth and which they identify with.

Sessions in this series