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Sea Cave Near Lisbon, A (1896)


Main image of Sea Cave Near Lisbon, A (1896)
35mm, black and white, silent, 50 feet
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works
ProducerR.W. Paul
PhotographyHenry Short

A view looking out to sea through the Bocca d'Inferno cave near Lisbon, with waves breaking in.

Show full synopsis

In summer 1896, R.W. Paul gave his colleague Henry William Short his latest invention, an unusuall portable film camera, and commissioned a series of films that was eventually screened as the fourteen-part Tour in Spain and Portugal on 22 October.

Right from the start, A Sea Cave Near Lisbon (shot at the mouth of the Boca do inferno cave) was singled out for its pictorial qualities, which were highlighted in Paul's catalogue as "a very striking and artistic photograph of a large cave near the Atlantic coast, into which waves dash with great violence". Film historian John Barnes quoted the newspaper The Era (31 October), which said that it was:

one of the most beautiful realisations of the sea that we have ever witnessed. The foam-crested waves rush into the recesses of the rocks, clouds of spray are hurled into space, and the grandeur and beauty of the scene are remarkable.

For the time, it is indeed a very impressive achievement, with the mouth of the cave acting as a frame for the central action: the waves breaking on the rocks. This was one of the first instances in early cinema of a creative approach towards framing a shot, and it is instructive to compare it with the previous year's Rough Sea at Dover (d. Birt Acres/R.W. Paul, 1895) to see how far both the aesthetics and technology of filmmaking had come in just over a year.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (0:13)
Breakers (1896)
Fishermen and Boat at Port Said (1897)
Rough Sea at Dover (1895)
Women Fetching Water from the Nile (1897)
Paul's Animatograph Works: Longer Actualities