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The Big Swallow
An image of The Big Swallow

The Big Swallow

The Big Swallow

The Big Swallow is the most eye-catching example of the creativity of James Williamson. Its brevity and simplicity are inversely proportional to his genius. Williamson plays with prospects trying to squeeze the best out of its knowledge on the depth of field.

The first shot is a subjective (Grandma's Reading Glass, 1900) from the eye of the operator intent to debate with an English gentleman a bit annoyed by the idea to be filmed (it was supposed to be a fairly common reaction at the time).

In the second phase of the movie, the man, muttering a few curses and waving a large walking stick in the air, getting annoyed, move himself closer to the objective of the camera, until than, framed in an heavy close-up (the first example in film history) that makes him huge in the viewer’s eyes, opens his mouth and swallows both the operator and his camera whole.

The film ends with the gentleman chewing the preys with an expression of greed and satisfaction, transferring to the audience a strange sense of macabre humor.

Michael Brooke said about this film: “one of the most important early British films in that it was one of the first to deliberately exploit the contrast between the eye of the camera and of the audience watching the final film”.