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Balkan Cinema and the Great Wars

Our Story

Edited By Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, Savas Arslan and Marian Tutui

Balkan Cinema is a result of a common cultural space shared by different nations. While operating under a blanket and negative perspective on the region, Balkan filmmakers produced diverse yet comparable narratives creatively responding to their situation. Featuring selected and edited presentations from the Third International Conference on Balkan Cinema 8-10 May 2018 in Bucharest, this volume features how films entangled these issues including wars, national identity, myths, travels, and cultural exchanges. While we share a common Balkan heritage and celebrate peace and coexistence, we are also aware of the fact that our stories are written amidst and through multiple conflicts and wars. The wars and the peace, regardless of when and how they are happening, are ours to share.

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1. A Common Grounds among the Trenches? European Melodramas around WW1 and Their Impact on Balkan Film Style


Abstract Most early European melodramas made around WWI establish character, setting and subject matter not only as vehicles for extreme situations and emotions in a given context. They also contribute to a challenging re-contextualization of the pre-war national identities, reframed by quite unusual mise-en-scènes, constantly reminding the viewer that fiction and reality are complementary, not contradictory couples. When dealing with Balkan early films we need to ask how do European history, fiction and genre “irrigate” each other in early films and to what purpose? Paul Ricœur’s collection of essays “Time and Narrative” and most specifically his considerations about the dichotomy of narrated time/historical time from an Aristotelian perspective, surprisingly fit the contents and style of several European films from the early teens. Four Western war melodramas: Une mauvaise nouvelle (1915, France), Girl without a Fatherland (aka A Romany Spy) (Das Mädchen ohne Vaterland, 1912, Germany, d. Urban Gad), Maudite soit la guerre (1914, Belgium, d. Aldred Machin), The Unknown Hero (Les Etoiles de la gloire) (1919, France, d. Léonce Perret) are compared with and seen as models for two Balkan war melodramas Duty and Sacrifice (Datorie și sacrificiu, 1925, Romania, d. Ion Șahighian) and In God We Trust (Sa verom u Boga, 1932, Yugoslavia, d. Mihajlo Popović).

Keywords: WWI, melodrama, silent film, newsreel, exposure techniques

Most early European melodramas made around World War I establish character, setting and subject matter not only as vehicles for extreme situations and emotions in...

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