Impressionism in Films As Per Your Film Expectations

French Impressionism is subdivided by David Bordwell into three different moments, following certain stylistic traits.

Pictorial Impressionism

Pictorial Impressionism is the first group of films with the features mentioned above, most of which are made from 1918 to 1922. Debuted by Abel Gance’s The Tenth Symphony (1918), this “subdivision” is marked by image manipulation through a camera lens, the use of optical mechanisms, masks, and other features that altered the mise-en-scène. An example is when, in El Dorado, the protagonist Sibilla is shown, among the other perfectly visible dancers, unfocused. When summoned by her mates, the highlighting mask disappears. After her dance number, it is revealed why she is out of focus: Sibilla was worried about her sick son. In addition to El Dorado, the principal works of this period are Louis Delluc’s Murder in Marseille (1921) and Germaine Dulac’s The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922). Make a visit to   for the best choices in movies.


From 1923 to 1925, the elements of subjectivation went from mise-en-scène to montage. Debuted by The Wheel (1923), also by Gance, the period is marked by the fast pace of editing, which has many different motives and purposes. In this movie, for example, when one of the protagonists, Sisif, tells how he saved his adopted daughter, Norma, from a train wreck, several frames of the event are shown within seconds. In another sequence, when Elie, Sisif’s true son, is about to fall off a cliff and sees Norma running toward him to help him, a parallel assembly is made between his hand holding a tree stump so that he does not fall and her face running, the cut being faster and faster as the adrenaline and the difficulty of holding increase.

  • As it is about to fall, images of their past appear on the screen for just a quarter of a second. In The Inhumane, in addition to an accelerated montage in certain scenes, there is a great speed of camera movements, which highlights the dialogue between Impressionism and another avant-garde, since speed is a clear reference to Futurism. In addition to these two films,

The Deceased Mathias Pascal (1926), also by L’Herbier, is one of the major works of the period. The assembly and chaining of paintings, due to their rhythm, were compared to music, such comparisons fit within the belief that cinema is the synthesis of other arts. In contrast, some theorists defended the film as a pure form in which there are unique possibilities for the artist.

Montage with four images of The Wheel

Car Scene in The Inhuman


With the exhaustion of the use of stylistic resources, the period from 1926 until the end of the movement for the arrival of sound cinema, in 1929, is a market due to the widespread diffusion of features and experimentation by the directors, so it is difficult to define something in common. between the movies in those final years.

It is possible, however, to highlight Gance’s great work in Napoleon (1927), in which, among other visual components, the director successfully used the tripartition of the image, sometimes so that three cameras gave an epic panorama of the scene, sometimes so that three moments were shown at the same time or three angles of the same object were shown at the same time. Jean Epstein also has great importance for the period.