The Beginnings of European Filmmaking in Siam

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Alexander Johannes Klemm


In 1908 the Danish company Nordisk Film sent cinematographer Ludvig Lippert on a journey to the East. His itinerary included Siam, where he shot impressions of Bangkok and the celebration of the 40-year jubilee of the reign of King Chulalongkorn. European photographers had been coming to Siam since the 1860s, documenting people, places, and culture, but Lippert’s visit marked the first time that a European filmmaker came to Siam on a mission to make scenic films, commonly known as ‘scenics’, meant for distribution in Europe. Between 1910 and 1913 the French company Pathé Frères also produced its first scenics in Siam. Thus, before the outbreak of World War I, film productions by Nordisk Film and Pathé Frères constituted the first cinematic representations of Siam. Most of these scenics have been lost because of the brittleness of early celluloid and the turmoil of history. As a consequence, there no in-depth academic discussion about them has taken place. This paper seeks to close this research gap. By way of contextualizing the Nordisk Film and Pathé Frères productions, outlining relevant film-historic circumstances, and drawing connections to 19th-century representations of Siam in photography, the paper offers insights into the beginnings of European filmmaking in Siam and makes an original contribution to the study of western portrayals of this Southeast Asian nation.



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