LEAVING JERUSALEM BY RAILWAY
aka. Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer
(Louis Lumière, 1897, France, 1m, BW)
Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer
Directed by Alexandre Promio
Produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière
Distributed by Auguste and Louis Lumière
Release dates 1897
Language Silent film
Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer (translated into English as Leaving Jerusalem by Railway) is an 1897 film directed by Alexandre Promio and released by the Lumière brothers. Lasting for roughly 50 seconds, it shows the goodbyes of many passersby - first Europeans, then Palestinian Arabs, then Palestinian Jews - as a train leaves Jerusalem.
A train, with a camera mounted near the front, pulls out of the Jerusalem station. It passes groups, first of Europeans, then Palestinian Arabs, then Palestinian Jews. Dress, hats, and facial hair are each distinctive group to group. Except for the station itself, the buildings visible in the background are ruins - no more than crumbling walls.
Leaving Jerusalem by Railway contains what is possibly the first depiction of motion in the history of film. Some instead credit The Haverstraw Tunnel with this innovation, but only the year of release is available for the two; therefore it is unknown which came first.
The film holds the rare distinction of being among the 19th century films voted for in the British Film Institute's decennial Sight & Sound poll: director Patrick Keiller ranked it one of the 10 greatest motion pictures ever made.
The Lumieres' documentary style was particularly effective in instituting a slippage between reality and its simulation because it forwarded images of everyday life under the guise of scientific truth, all the while entertaining the audience through the shock of the "real" produced by the apparatus. As Benjamin noted, the blurring of reality and representation in film could be conceived as relating to the fusion of science and art as an integral element of fascination for the spectator:
In comparison with the stage scene, the filmed behaviour item lends itself more readily to analysis because it can be isolated more easily. This circumstance derives its chief importance from its tendency to promote the mutual penetration of art and science. Actually, of a screened behaviour item which is neatly brought out in a certain situation, like a muscle of a body, it is difficult to say which is more fascinating, its artistic value or its value for science.
As well as being invaluable historical documents of everyday social life at the end of the 19 th century, what I hope will become apparent from my analysis of these films is the Cinematographe's fusion of scientific invention with the burgeoning competitive entertainment industry. The success of this industry was dependent on the production of a new subject, one driven by the compulsion to see and consume all things new and all things simulating the real. The construction of identity from identification with "actors," while nascent in early cinema, was only the starting point for a complex system of identification with and subjection to the gaze that was to be de rigueur in subsequent productions
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