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LYRICAL NITRATE

Netherlands, 1990 (MIFF 1991, Documentaries)

Director: Peter Delpeut

Lyrical Nitrate is a compilation of film fragments dating from the period 1905-1915. They originate from the collection of films of Jean Desmet, the first film distributor, which is currently being preserved by the Netherlands Filmmuseum.

Surprisingly, these films were originally exhibited in colour and are shown here in their original rich and subtle shades. The film is constructed like a musical composition, starting with the theme of watching cinema itself, then moving on to love and passion and finally to death. It culminates in a reflection on the transitory nature of the film material itself.

All films from this period are mute. To emphasize their lyrical character, which appears to be rooted in the 19th century theatrical and operatic tradition, the sound track of Lyrical Nitrate contains music in that vein, mostly recordings from the time.

Director Peter Delpeut made this film as a tribute to early cinema and its mise-en-scene. To highlight the wealth of its cinematographic talent and beauty, he subtly manipulates the speed at which it's projected, according to the mood of the images. The result is a view of film history, that is emotional rather than didactic, a re-appraisal of cinema in its purest and most basic sense, where it engages our willingness to look and be moved.

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