War-time narrative of creativity

1916: The Battle of the Somme is first shown in British cinemas in August (the battle had begun on 1 July) and The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks follow later in the year. Somme is the world’s first full-length war documentary, and within three months almost half od Britain’s population see it. Ancre and the Tanks follows later actions. It is autumn and images of mud and rain dominate. Because it includes footage of the first tanks in use, it is hugely popular. Reports say that audiences gasped in admiration at the appearances of the tanks, applauding when they appear. Both films offer a vivid and haunting soldier’s eye view. [Available, remastered, on IWM video.]

1917: Dadaism, with thin roots from just before the war, is transformed into a vibrant, although short-lived,movement that engages with the lack of meaning increasingly felt about the war. (It experiences a revival of interest in the 1960s.)

1918: J’Accuse, a film by Abel Gance, produced by Pathe, in France, starring Romuald Joube and Severin-Mars (remade by Gance in 1937). A farmer husband and a poet both love a woman. Both go to war. She is raped by a German. The husband suspects the poet. When he is told the truth, both go back to the trenches to avenge her. This is the first look into the trenches from a fictional angle, and focuses on their horror.