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Death of Marat (1897)

Mort de Marat (original title)
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Famous People Killed in Color
16 January 2009 | by See all my reviews

This early film made by Georges Hatot for the Lumière Company is a brief single shot-scene of the assassination of the French revolutionary writer, Jean-Paul Marat, who has the notorious distinction of having influenced the Reign of Terror. Probably the most remarkable aspect of the print of this film available today is that it's hand colored. Many early films were hand painted, including those by the Lumière Company. Among those available today are prints of "Les Forgerons" (1895), "Partie de cartes" (1895), "Exécution de Jeanne d'Arc" (1898) and, most spectacular, "Danse serpentine" (1897).

Hatot seems to have specialized in filming historical scenes for the Lumière Company--and especially in scenes of famous persons being killed. In addition to "Mort de Marat", he made the aforementioned scene of the execution of Joan of Arc, as well as scenes of the death of Robespierre; Henry I, Duke of Guise; and a passion play within the period of 1897 to 1898.

"The Death of Marat" opens with Marat writing in a shoe-shaped bathtub (oddly, he's wearing a shirt, though) and his assassin sitting near him in a chair. On a biographical note, Marat spent a lot of time in the bathtub because he had a peculiar skin condition. Anyhow, the female assassin leaps from the chair and stabs Marat to death. News travels fast, and the room is quickly filled with a dozen or so people, including guards to arrest her and protect her from upset citizens. Considering that most films at this time were cheaply-produced actualities, for which the Lumière filmmakers were most celebrated, "Mort de Marat" is something of a super-production for 1897, with a painted set, actors, a narrative and the added attraction of color.

(Note: The print contains many scratches.)

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