Exhibtion, films, talks & events
Jean Desmet's Dream Factory
The Adventurous Years of Film (1907-1916)
A unique archive of material at Eye, the collection was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011 and is a unique representation of the film industry in the second decade of the last century. The early years of cinema were an exciting time when film matured through experiments with the possibilities of the new medium. The exhibition, accompanied by film and activity programmes, and a lavishly illustrated publication, brought this exceptionally adventurous period back to life.
From 13 December 2014 to 12 April 2015, Eye devoted an exhibition to one of the most interesting periods in film history, which explores the collection of Jean Desmet (1875-1956).
In the years 1907-1916, Jean Desmet was one of the biggest Dutch names in the field of theatrical film screening and distribution. In addition to his company archive — which offers unique insight into the commercial side of cinema culture — he left behind a remarkable collection of films, posters and publicity material. In 1957, it was donated to the Nederlands Filmmuseum, the precursor of today’s Eye.
Both film and the film industry developed in the years that Desmet was active. Pioneers conducted all sorts of experiments with the wonderful new medium, turning the 1910s into a veritable creative hotbed.
The beginning of the 20th century was an era of new technology, artistic ingenuity and creative entrepreneurship — comparable to today’s world where developments in the field of digital imagery succeed one another rapidly.
About the exhibition
The exhibition includes a number of films from the Desmet Collection on big screens that demonstrate the modern and adventurous nature of early cinema internationally. They bear witness to a sense of wonder and pleasure — wonder at the (artistic) potential of cinema, the various narrative styles, and the possibilities of the camera, in the form of special effects, colouring, staging and framing.
The films also testify to the pleasure offered by the new medium: pleasure in seducing the viewer and expressing the power of imagination. The exhibition reveals the evolution of film culture from fairground attraction and travelling cinema to screenings at permanent venues. It also includes posters and a selection of documents and publicity material.
Films, talks & more
Parallel to the exhibition, the auditoriums hosted a special Desmet programme. Guest speakers reflected on films from the Desmet Collection made during the years when modernity heralded its arrival with great intensity. The film selection and commentaries pointed to parallels and contrasts between the imagery of early cinema and the present day. Among the themes addressed were the ‘Grand Tour’, ‘madness and science’ and ‘old new media’. All performances were accompanied by live music.
Cinema Concerts featured a film from the 1910s with live music after an introduction to the film’s history. Also programmed were lectures, guided tours, family tours and children’s workshops.
The exhibition was accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication in Dutch and English editions: Jean Desmets droomfabriek – De avontuurlijke jaren van de film (1907- 1916) / Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory – The Adventurous Years of Film (1907- 1916).
Support Eye. Join the Eye Society.