The sign of the cross: Georges Melies and early Satanic cinema

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In the latter half of 1896 Georges Méliès utilised his experiments with both jump cuts and double-exposures in Le manoir du diable / The House of the Devil to create a three minute film set in a the gothic surrounds of a haunted castle. Such films were not unusual during the early period of cinemas development and Le manoir du diable was merely one of the numerous films Georges Méliès, in particular, would make that explored macabre themes and images, as later works such as Le Diable au Couvent / The Sign of the Cross (1899) and Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne / The Devil and the Statue (1901) attest. As Nicholas Schreck has noted, the extent to which the diverse and regular representation of Satan in particular was a feature of early cinema demonstrates it embedded nature within early Western filmic representations. In the two decades following the invention and popularisation of cinema, European filmmakers, in particular, increasingly began to explore supernatural, mythical and quasi-religious themes and imagery within which the Devil (naturally) played a central role. This chapter will explore the ways in which Méliès work was crucial to this development process and examines the significance of these works to the (much) later elaboration of horror as a distinct genre. Specifically it will argue that the work of Méliès was integral in both facilitating and providing a template for the bit-by-bit development of what came to be known
as ‘the horror film’.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGiving the Devil His Due
Subtitle of host publicationSatan and Cinema
EditorsJeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Regina M. Hansen
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherFordham University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780823297900
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021


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