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The Sea (1895)
"Baignade en mer" (original title)

5.6
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Ratings: 5.6/10 from 598 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

Several little boys run along a pier, then jump into the ocean.

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Title: The Sea (1895)

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Storyline

The sea is before us. Some rocks are visible to the right and a narrow jetty extends about ten meters or so about three feet above the sea, held up by two sets of pylons. A woman and several lads about ten years old are coming out onto the rocks, one climbs onto the jetty at the end. He jumps back into the sea as the lads and lady run out to the end of the jetty and jump off. Even though the sea looks to be only about a foot deep, one boy does a flip into the water and repeats it later. The others simply jump in. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

sea | pier | swimming | swimmer | See All (4) »

Genres:

Documentary | Short

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Release Date:

28 June 1896 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

The Sea  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Depth, perspective and dynamic cycles
29 March 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Swimming in the Sea (aka Lumiere No. 11) is an approximately 50-second long actuality of four boys and a woman running down a small, makeshift pier and diving in the ocean. They circle around to jump in again before the short loops.

The Edison Company's early short films for the kinetoscope were often "flatly" shot, even when layered with rows of motion. The effect is similar to sitting in an audience and watching a play from a straight-on angle, with the action in a rectangular box. To a large extent, this style was probably a result of shooting inside the Black Maria, Edison's "film studio" in New Jersey, which was basically just a large cubic space.

Louis and August Lumiere, two other extremely important figures in the early history of cinema who invented the cinématographe, a machine to compete with Edison's kinetoscope, had a very different approach. They focused on actualities, or motion picture records of "real life", documentary style, in contradistinction to Edison's more artificially constructed scenarios. They also had more of a modern photographic eye, as exemplified in Swimming in the Sea, and tended to shoot at unusual, often oblique angles.

The pier in Swimming in the Sea juts out at a sharp angle from the center of the right hand side of the frame and cuts more than two-thirds of the way across. It's a dramatic visual composition, creating an intriguingly exaggerated perspectival depth, made even more dramatic and dynamic by both the rolling ocean and the quickly cycling bathers/divers. The energetic fun of the bathers is easily conveyed, and you can easily imagine their laughter.

This is well worth watching and easily available now on a number of DVD compilations of early shorts.

Note: I've been reviewing a lot of these early short silent films recently (and I plan to continue to review interesting films from throughout the history of cinema), and some readers feel that my rating a film like Swimming in the Sea a 9 is out of whack with giving a film like Constantine (2005) a 7. Some have asked questions like, "Do you really think that Swimming in the Sea is that much more rewarding/entertaining than Constantine?"

I rate using a rough translation of the 1 – 10 scale as something like the U.S. letter grading scale, so a 9 is a "90%", or an "A". I see films as self-defining the "project" they're attempting, and I take historical, budgetary and other cultural considerations into account to determine that. So the question becomes, "Does this film do a good job achieving what it sets for itself as its task, given its historical/cultural context?" I can answer a pretty strong "yes" for a film like Swimming in the Sea, and not as strong of a "yes" for a film like Constantine. Using the same scale for each doesn't imply that they're quantitatively/qualitatively comparable. The idea is that for attempting an actuality that is aesthetically interesting in an era where only 50-second long or so silent, black & white shorts were possible, Swimming in the Sea is very competent. For attempting an epic-scaled comic book film in the high-technology era of the early 21st Century, Constantine is not as competent.


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