In 1913, a young artist, Pierre falls in love with a beautiful seamstress, Janine. Their Elysian summer is cut short when war breaks out and Pierre is sent to fight on the front. After the war, Pierre returns home to find that his wife has died whilst giving birth to their daughter, Jeannette. Disillusioned and heart-broken, Pierre withdraws on himself and it is a struggle for him to bring up his daughter, the daughter that brought death to the only woman he loved… —Films de France
Abel Gance was the major figure among directors in 1920s French film, and among the most ambitious visionaries of the silent cinema. Fueled by literary ambitions from childhood, Gance began working as an actor at the age of 19, with the ambition of breaking into playwriting. In 1909, Gance managed to get a job writing movie scenarios for Gaumont and, by 1911, was directing them. None of Gance’s earliest films survive, but his first viewable effort demonstrates that he was already pioneering the use of unusual visual effects. In the short La Folie du Docteur Tube (1915), Gance uses an anamorphic lens to illustrate the story of a mad doctor who uses a ray to twist everyday objects and people out of shape. Gance gained his first good notices from critics with Mater Dolorosa (1917), a genuine tragedy without a “happy ending,” relatively rare in French cinema of the day. With this film, Gance began to use editing and camerawork to project the interior thoughts of his characters.
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