I Accuse (1919)(J'accuse)
Dir: Abel Gance
France, 1919, Silent, 166mins, DCP
Cast: Romuald Joubé, Maxime Desjardins, Séverin-Mars
One of cinema’s earliest triumphs, I Accuse offers a principled indictment of The Great War, structured around a decadespanning love triangle. Pacifist poet Jean Diaz loves Edith, herself married to the brutish François Laurin. When World War I breaks out, the two men meet again in the trenches, their love for the same woman help them form an unlikely bond in the face of unspeakable hardships. Abel Gance’s antiwar masterpiece – inspired by his own experience in the French Army – moves back and forth between an idealised nationalism and a romanticised pacifism; between the brutal modernity of warfare and a hint of the supernatural. This ground-breaking amalgam of narrative techniques forcefully conveys the horror of humanity’s ways.