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Day in the Hayfields, A (1904)


Main image of Day in the Hayfields, A (1904)
35mm, black and white, 195 feet
Production CompanyHepworth Manufacturing Company

The phases of haymaking, from the cutting of the grass until the hay is stacked.

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A Day in the Hayfields (1904) merges two of the most popular non-fiction genres of early cinema, the industrial and the scenic. The industrial film was a series of shots following a particular process from beginning to end. It might be a specifically industrial process like the blasting and shaping of slate, a more rural subject like strawberry picking or, as in this case, the cutting and gathering of hay.

The industrial was an interesting way of combining the simplicity of non-fiction filming - you did not have to write a story or cast actors - with the interest of a story, as the audience followed a particular item through its various stages until it reached the finished product, here in the form of haystacks. The scenic, on the other hand, was normally plotless, simply a view or series of views of a particular place or event. For example, in February 1904 Hepworth released a series of views of the river Dart in Devon. However, the pleasure of the scenic for the audience lay in the picturesque quality of the images, at a time when urban audiences in particular did not necessarily have the opportunity to travel to the countryside.

A subject like this was particularly suited to the Hepworth Company, since it had a reputation for photographic excellence, deriving from its output of non-fiction scenic films. Such films were a particular interest of Cecil Hepworth, who until 1914 almost never directed fiction films, but concentrated on his own love of pictorial painting and photography and of transferring this to the cinema. Hepworth almost certainly directed this film himself, and the quality of the cinematography is outstanding.

Simon Brown

*This film can also be viewed via the BFI's YouTube channel.

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Complete film (3:15)