J'accuse! (1919)

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The story of two men, one married, the other the lover of the other's wife, who meet in the trenches of the First World War, and how their tale becomes a microcosm for the horrors of war.



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Credited cast:
Maxime Desjardins ...
Maria Lazare
Angèle Guys ...
Maryse Dauvray ...
Mancini ...
Jean's Mother
Elizabeth Nizan
Pierre Danis
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Blaise Cendrars
Paul Duc ...


The story of two men, one married, the other the lover of the other's wife, who meet in the trenches of the First World War, and how their tale becomes a microcosm for the horrors of war. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Horror | War

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 April 1919 (France)  »

Also Known As:

J'accuse!  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Blaise Cendrars:  the assistant director for the film had joined the French foreign legion during WWI (he was a Swiss citizen) and lost an arm in the battle. He can be seen playing at the end of the movie when the dead soldiers stand up. See more »


Title Card: Chance does not like secrets.
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User Reviews

A super-important film to the history of cinema
28 April 2008 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Before I start, I am a bit confused. If the newly restored version just debuted this year, how come there are reviews that predate this? Could it be that they saw an extremely abbreviated version? Could it also be that some have reviewed a movie they never actually saw (something that's happened with the first Marx Brothers film and many other lost films). All I know is that this movie was assumed lost until quite recently and you may want to keep this in mind--the reviews were based, at best, on an earlier and less complete version.

UPDATE: After talking it over with one of the earlier reviewers, I learned that there WERE other extremely truncated versions floating out there on VHS. I am glad this cleared up my confusion and thank goodness we now have the fully restored Flicker Alley version!

While writer/director Abel Gance made two films called J'ACCUSE, they are both very, very different even though they are about WWI. The 1938 version is much more watchable but dated stylistically for 1938 and the 1919 version is overlong and has a blurred message BUT it also was much more important historically speaking, as for 1919, it was an incredibly innovative film.

Unlike the 1938 version, a very significant portion of this film is set before WWI--perhaps too much, as it seemed unnecessary and tended to make the film a bit overlong (at nearly three hours). However, the battle scenes were very good and until THE BIG PARADE and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, they were probably the best on film. Also, since it was made mostly in 1918, there is no post-war section to the film--the war had literally just ended. The 1938 film is MOSTLY set in the intervening years--including 1938.

The overall message is that war is bad and pointless, which is the same messages as the later film, but since it was mostly filmed DURING the war, there also seemed to be a much stronger anti-German bias. In other words, while war was seen as evil, so were the raping and murdering Germans. It's natural that in the midst of the war that it be portrayed that way, but it's a shame this anti-German bias was in this film and not the 1938 one (since, in WWII, the Germans were actually "the bad guy"--in WWI the German people and soldiers were victims just like everyone else). So the film suffers from the "blame it all on the Germans" myth.

As I mentioned above, there were multiple messages in the film. Another important plot in the film involves friendship and love--and in that sense it is a much more conventional story. Personally, I felt this aspect of the film was the least important.

Overall, a spectacular and seminal work--though one that isn't as spectacular today since better war and anti-war films have followed. The biggest problems are the stagy style, too much melodrama and its length--but when the film debuted in 1919, it was STILL much better and more watchable than most films coming out in Europe and America.

18 of 27 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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