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Grandma's Reading Glass (1900)

A boy looks through glasses at various objects, seen magnified.



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Credited cast:
Harold Smith ...
Willy - the little grandson


A child borrows his grandmother's magnifying glass to look at a newspaper ad for Bovril, at a watch, and then at a bird. The child shows grandma what he is doing. The child looks next at grandma's eye, then at a kitten. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Release Date:

November 1900 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A nagymama nagyítója  »

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User Reviews

A little-acknowledged milestone in film history.
22 December 2000 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

This is the first film to make sustained use of point of view shots. A small boy picks up his granny's magnifying glass, and looks at various items through it, the newspaper, a cat etc. The film in itself is utterly charming: the little boy with the huge glass, the grandmother in her nannyish Victorian clothes, the tiny, overstuffed room all contrive a surreal, Alice-like atmosphere, which is very English in its exaggerated normality. and the young boy's discoveries, his making the world strange by looking with someone else's eyes, is delightful, explaining logically why the last thing he sees is his grandmother's eyes (birth of Godard!).

This making strange the familiar is, again, surreal, but it is also what the cinema does, and what the cinema had largely been doing since its invention, photographing the everyday, workers, families, trains etc., but making them marvellous. The difference being that these things were marvellous, not in themselves, but because of the medium, because they were moving pictures, because people had never seen themselves, or people like themselves in such an art form before. That novelty soon wore off, hence the move towards narrative, fantasy, comedy, genre.

The point of view, however, suggested a new avenue altogether. where early films were shot with a calm, detached, effacing distance, its framing belonging ostensibly to no-one (whatever ideologies such objectivity implied), the point of view took the image, or narrative, from outside the frame within it, breaking it up as it were, creating two levels of looking - the audience looking at the fiction, and the character in the fiction looking at something. The inviolability of the image is shattered, is no longer objective - 'reality' exists at two removes. We don't see an unmediated image anymore, we have to ask about the state of mind of the looker. Subjectivity is born, paving the way for German Expressionism, 'Citizen Kane', 'Vertigo', the monuments of the medium.

Smith cannily understands this- the point of view here is deliberately distorted, a young person looking through the glass of an older person with poor sight. The image is heightened, almost unreal. The camera and the distorted glass become the same thing, objectivity dies. Hoorah!

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