Butterflys (1906)

aka Le farfalle
Article 4184 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 3-22-2013
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: Italy
What it is: Early dance short

A butterfly is taken captive, and another butterfly undertakes to rescue it.

As anybody who has been following my series lately has no doubt noticed, I’m spending a lot of time on movies from the very early days of cinema. No doubt there are some people who wonder why I’m bothering to spend so much time with this era, and if anyone asks, I’m armed with an answer; since my project does aspire to be comprehensive and is somewhat geared toward emphasizing the early years first, I’m bound to cover this era extensively. My own problem with this answer is that it sounds a bit dismissive; it’s almost as if I was saying that if I had my druthers, I’d skip it and go on to later stuff. The truth of the matter is different; quite frankly, I love the silent era and I love covering these very early movies. Why? Because I think there’s something exciting about exploring the early years of any craft of this sort, before the rules and traditions were set and where people would experiment in a way that is hard to imagine them trying these days.

Just for example, I’ve become a bit fascinated with the whole phenomenon of hand-tinting. It seems to me that it was only in the very early days of movies that this approach was taken, and some of the stunning results I’ve seen make me regret that it’s something of a lost art. I thought about that while I was watching this short, in which a butterfly’s wings change colors throughout the movie. It’s the type of novel touch that seems natural to the art of hand-tinting. I do wonder what the original music for it sounded like; the copy I found featured a remix of Bjork’s song “Sacrifice” (an acquired taste, to be sure), but it looks to me like the short is fairly complete as it is. Outside of that, there’s really not much in the way of special effects; the anthropomorphic butterflies are the fantastic content, and the whole short emphasizes the use of dance; it looks like a short ballet. But it’s noticing the little touches here and there that makes exploring these early shorts an adventure of its own, and it’s one I’m glad I’ve undertaken.


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