Solar Eclipse

  • Director: Nevil Maskelyne
  • Year: 1900
  • Runtime: 2m
  • Available on BFI Player

This film is believed to be the first surviving astronomical film in the world. Magician and astronomy enthusiast Nevil Maskelyne had to design and build a special adaptor for his camera in order to capture this solar eclipse, an event that has fascinated us for all of human existence.

With other films of the era, costumes and staging and special effects and acting come together to form a cultural snapshot that contain the limitations, morals, beliefs, and prejudices of the moment in which it was made.

In watching them with modern eyes, the sense of our distance in time is more acute. We have to work harder to imagine how they would be received by audiences of the time.

This film transcends that barrier. We can stand alongside the Victorians and look up to the sky, all feeling that same sense of wonder and majesty. Our common humanity, shared across the ages.

See more from my study of The History of Cinema.