Napoleon (1927)
"Napoléon vu par Abel Gance" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 5,152 users  
Reviews: 52 user | 25 critic

A film about the French Field Marshal's youth and early military career.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vladimir Roudenko ...
Alexandre Koubitzky ...
Abel Gance ...
Gina Manès ...
Suzanne Bianchetti ...
Marguerite Gance ...
Yvette Dieudonné ...
Élisa Bonaparte
Philippe Hériat ...
Eugénie Buffet ...
Acho Chakatouny ...
Nicolas Koline ...


A massive six-hour biopic of Napoleon, tracing his career from his schooldays (where a snowball fight is staged like a military campaign), his flight from Corsica, through the French Revolution (where a real storm is intercut with a political storm) and the Terror, culminating in his triumphant invasion of Italy in 1797 (the film stops there because it was intended to be part one of six, but director Abel Gance never raised the money to make the other five). The film's legendary reputation is due to the astonishing range of techniques that Gance uses to tell his story, culminating in the final twenty-minute triptych sequence, which alternates widescreen panoramas with complex multiple- image montages projected simultaneously on three screens. Written by Michael Brooke <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Abel Gance's 1927 Masterpiece [reissue]


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Parents Guide:




Release Date:

17 February 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Abel Gance's Napoleon  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(DVD edition) | (2000 restoration) | (1981 restored) | (cinémathèque française print)

Sound Mix:

(1981 re-release)| |


| (tinted) (some sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the scene with the ghosts of Parliament, there are at least 40 exposures used to create the effect. For one shot during the pillow fight, there are about 60. The multiple exposures were done on an optical printer and required painstaking craftsmanship. See more »


In Act IV - the Army of Italy sequence - there are a couple of shots of Napoleon's head where the image has been flipped. This is obvious because usually when viewed from the front, the tricolor on Napoleon's hat is over his left eye (the viewer's right), whereas in the flipped clips it's over his right eye (the viewer's left). See more »


Referenced in As Time Goes By: A Trip to Los Angeles (1994) See more »


The Thrill of Being In Love (Love Theme of Napoleon and Josephine)
Music by Carmine Coppola
Lyrics by Italia Coppola
See more »

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User Reviews

Abel Gance was a Visionist
21 February 2001 | by (Los Angeles, California, USA) – See all my reviews

"Napoleon" is an absolute masterpiece in the world's history of filmmaking. In 1927, it was completely overshadowed by the technology of "The Jazz Singer". And that was a real tragedy for decades. Abel Gance is a director I will always admire for his innovation in filmmaking that still is impressive in the 21st Century. He mounted cameras on skis and swings to give the audience the effects that he wanted to convey, and it works perfectly. I was impressed by two great scenes - the 'ocean storm' scene and the final battlefield scene, which was done in the tints of the three colors of the French flag. Any aspiring director should study the techniques of Abel Gance, because the brilliance of this great director would be inspiring! Gance was also instrumental in perfect casting. Though Albert Dieudonne was older, as actors go, he was perfectly cast as Napoleon. If this was an American film and not a French film, I'm sure it would be considered as one of the greatest films ever made by AFI and other organizations.

I was glad that Abel Gance was able to see the affection that audiences had for this film in the late 1980's and early 1990's when the film went on a world tour with a world class orchestra. It would have been sad if Gance had passed on without knowing that his film was considered a masterpiece. If their was ever a silent film that 'pulls out all of the stops', this film is it. Viva Le Gance - the Visionist!

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

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