The Lumière brothers of France are widely acknowledged as the first filmmakers in history. But the month before they dazzled audiences with moving picture projections from their “Cinématographe” of 1895, three German brothers, Max, Emil and Eugen Skladanowsky, had patented a similar idea for capturing and then displaying film. Acclaimed director Wim Wenders sets out to put the focus back on the German brothers’ story in this fascinating documentary, “A Trick of the Light“.
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The Skladanowsky brothers’ invention, the “Bioskop”, was unveiled in Berlin at a variety show in 1895 with a sequence of six second rear-projections that stunned the audience. Their triumph was short lived however once word spread of the far superior “Cinématographe” and the brothers and their creation drifted into relative obscurity.
Wenders, along with a group of Munich University students, weave together archival footage along with contemporary film featuring an interview with Max Skladanowsky’s 91-year-old-daughter Lucie. She describes the ideas that inspired her father and uncles with their “Bioskop” including the 17th century magic-lantern technology and photo flip books.
“A Trick of the Light“ makes us wonder why these early pioneers of cinema have been overlooked for so many years by enthusiasts and avid film buffs. Little is known about the three German brothers in the vast history of early cinema however they were at the forefront of this revolution. Their influence on Wenders himself is pronounced as this film highlights the brothers’ work and lifts them into the spotlight that they unfortunately missed during their lifetime.