See the moving picture


The Fine Art of Clock Management

Onésime horloger (Onésime the Clockmaker)

Jean Durand, Gaumont, France, 1912

Having accelerated time throughout the world, Onésime abruptly finds himself married and entrusted with a newborn son to raise (apparently by hoisting the baby up and down). To indicate the accelerated passage of time, Durand adds fast motion to the familiar trick-effect combination of stop motion and substitution, transforming a baby in swaddling into a strapping six-footer in swaddling in about a minute. The conceit of accelerated existence in Onésime horloger—biological as well as mechanical—reflects Onésime’s quite practical desire to receive a delayed inheritance when he needs and can make the best use of it; thus the visual style of the film reflects fulfilled desire—the triumph of imagination and surreal logic over the repressive logic of existence governed by the clock (which is, after all, an artificial construct). As the hallmark of the film’s style, such trick effects as fast motion, stop motion, and substitution, though creating comic spectacle, also perform an intrinsically narrative and thematic function.

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