"An emblem of French cinema, L'Inhumaine is intended as a synthesis between the arts." (film critique)
As the last film of its selection of disparate fragments of French cinema, Deptford Cinema presents the 1924 art-déco masterpiece by Marcel L'Herbier:
The film revolves around the character of Claire Lescot, a destructively seductive singer who often gathers the most brilliant members of the international intelligentsia in her uniquely bizarre mansion. Among her admirers are politicians, businessmen and intellectuals, all of whom endeavor to seduce her while she remains inaccessible. Only one young scholar however, a disciple of Einstein, is of interest to her. After multiple turns of events, she discovers his laboratory, an ultra-modern temple dedicated to science. As she dies shortly after, the young engineer attempts to resuscitate her with an experimental machine.
Cubist sets of stunning symmetry maintain Claire Lescot in the center of the frame as male characters are kept at a distance by a disordered agitation.
The visual composition and sumptuous set designs result from the work of great figures of the artistic scene of the time such as the painter Fernand Léger, the architects Robert Mallet-Stevens and Pierre Chareau, or future film directors such as Claude Autant-Lara and Alberto Cavalcanti, whose collaboration is outstanding.
Marcel L'Herbier is however most impressive in his ability to combine genres. The film indeed goes from tragedy to fantasy and almost horror by means of effects that strongly remind of the work of the Surrealists. Similarly, the storyline borrows from science-fiction with a scientific laboratory where the futuristic reveries of the director are expressed. L'inhumaine is an avant-garde film, a reflection of the vivid Modernism of the 1920s.
Although there has been multiple rumors regarding an original score composed by Darius Milhaud for the first representation of the film, the later remains unknown. This recent restored version features the score composed by Aidje Tafial, many compositions of whom accompany the work of some of the most prominent filmmakers of the Silent era, such as Lubitsch, Von Stroheim or Flaherty.
“With this film, the director has created breath-taking images. The whole constitutes a resounding song about the greatness of modern technique. The visual composition tends towards music, and Tristan’s exclamation “I hear the light!” thus becomes real. The production of the last images of L’Inhumaine surpasses the imaginable. After watching it, one feels as though they had experienced the birth of a new art.” (Adolf Loos, Neue Freie Presse, Vienna, July 1924)
Courtesy of the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni.
Director: Marcel L'Herbier
Running time: 135min
Age Restriction: None