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The Dreyfus Affair
The Dreyfus Affair picture

The Dreyfus Affair

L'affaire Dreyfus Poster

The Dreyfus Affair is a series of short films shot by Georges Méliès in 1899 and inspired by the events, actually happened (and at the time of the series, still ongoing), in the historical event that is remembered as Dreyfus Affair, a political and social conflict that lasted from 1894 to 1906, in which the captain of Jewish origins, Alfred Dreyfus, was accused of treason, on suspicion of being a spy for Germany. At the end of the process, he was declared totally innocent.

At the time, those events had a powerful media resonance, so that French public opinion was divided in dreyfusards, who believed in the innocence of Dreyfus, and anti-dreyfusards, who instead believed in his guilty. The Dreyfus Affair series, will be remembered for being the first political film in movie history, surpassing even, another great Melies success of the same genre: The Coronation of Edward VII. Also, it was certainly the first film series ever created until that moment.

The series is divided into 11 chapters lasting about 1-2 minutes each, for a total length of 13 minutes per 240 meters of film: at the time an enormity. Melies took, to play the role of Dreyfus, an ironworker with a strong resemblance to Dreyfus, in order to make the film more realistic. This series of shorts, in fact, differs greatly from previous productions of Melies, definitely fantasy, with theatrical and highly imaginative impact.

Melies had a brilliant idea: groped to compose an complex story, based on true events, using a series of reels connected by the same narrative meaning. A few years later, Edwin Stanton Porter fascinated and inspired by these insights, will create the first narrative film in movie history, adapted from a real robbery, which became one of the first Western movie ever: The Great Train Robbery.

Facts

  • Méliès himself appears in the movie, playing the lawyer of Dreyfus: Fernand Labori. He makes another brief reappearance as a journalist after the attack to Labori.
  • Immediately after the production of this series, the Pathé studios released a very similar product: a series of six episodes that recalled the events of the Dreyfus Affair, with Ferdinand Zecca director and Jean Liézer in the role of Dreyfus.