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Continuity in Action (II)


James Williamson, Great Britain, 1901

This five-shot film in five scenes is one of the earliest instances of an effort to construct a complex narrative out of multiple shots. In Scene/Shot 1, a policeman discovers a house on fire and, in Scene/Shot 2, alerts the Hove Fire Department (frame 1), which rushes into action (still in Scene/Shot 2) and (in Scene/Shot 3) races to the fire (2). In Scene/Shot 4, which cuts to the interior of the burning house, a man is overcome and collapses on the bed, where he’s found by a fireman who breaks through the window (3) and, in Scene/Shot 5 carries him down the ladder to safety (4,5). Recovering, the man explains that there other people in the house. They, too, are rescued (still in Scene/Shot 5), a woman having to leap from a second-story window into an outstretched sheet (6). Not surprisingly, Williamson’s Fire! was an inspiration for Edwin S. Porter’s quite similar Life of an American Fireman (1903—see Chapter 4.2).

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