Amsterdam, 1 December 2014
EXHIBITION: Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory – The Adventurous Years of Film (1907- 1916)
This winter EYE is devoting an exhibition to one of the most interesting periods in film history, which explores the collection of Jean Desmet (1875-1956). A significant archive of material at EYE, the collection was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011 and is a unique representation of the film industry in the second decade of the last century. The early years of cinema were an exciting time when film matured through experiments with the possibilities of the new medium. The exhibition, accompanied by film and activity programmes, and a lavishly illustrated publication, brings this exceptionally adventurous period back to life.
Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory – The Adventurous Years of Film (1907- 1916); 13 December 2014 to 12 April 2015 in EYE, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam, eyefilm.nl/dreamfactory
In the years 1907-1916 Jean Desmet was one of the biggest Dutch names in the field of theatrical film screening and distribution. In addition to his company archive — which offers unique insight into the commercial side of cinema culture — he left behind a remarkable collection of films, posters and publicity material. In 1957 it was donated to the Nederlands Filmmuseum, the precursor of today’s EYE.
Both film and the film industry developed in the years that Desmet was active. Pioneers conducted all sorts of experiments with the wonderful new medium, turning the 1910s into a veritable creative hotbed.
The beginning of the 20th century was an era of new technology, artistic ingenuity and creative entrepreneurship — comparable to today’s world where developments in the field of digital imagery succeed one another rapidly.
The exhibition includes a number of films from the Desmet Collection on big screens that demonstrate the modern and adventurous nature of early cinema internationally. They bear witness to a sense of wonder and pleasure — wonder at the (artistic) potential of cinema, the various narrative styles, and the possibilities of the camera, in the form of special effects, colouring, staging and framing. The films also testify to the pleasure offered by the new medium: pleasure in seducing the viewer and expressing the power of imagination. The exhibition reveals the evolution of film culture from fairground attraction and travelling cinema to screenings at permanent venues. It also includes posters and a selection of documents and publicity material.
Film and events
Every week the auditoriums host a special Desmet programme. Guest speakers reflect on films from the Desmet Collection made during the years when modernity heralded its arrival with great intensity. The film selection and commentaries point to parallels and contrasts between the imagery of early cinema and the present day. Among the themes addressed are the ‘Grand Tour’, ‘madness and science’ and ‘old new media’. All performances are accompanied by live music.
Twice a month (on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm), a Cinema Concert features a film from the 1910s with live music after an introduction to the film’s history. Also programmed are lectures, guided tours, family tours and children’s workshops.
Publication Accompanying the exhibition is a lavishly illustrated publication in Dutch and English editions: Jean Desmets droomfabriek – De avontuurlijke jaren van de film (1907- 1916) / Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory – The Adventurous Years of Film (1907- 1916). Publisher: EYE, with nai010 publishers, 192 pages, € 29.50.
Bhawana Somaaya / @bhawanasomaaya