A documentary about the life of trailblazing 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge has received favorable reviews after it has been shown at various film festivals.
Exposing Murbridge scooped the best documentary screenplay award at this year’s Writers Guild Awards and has so far been shown at a host of film festivals across the United States, including DOC NYC, and is now screening in festivals in Europe and beyond.
Pioneering Photographer Eadweard Muybridge
Muybridge was an English photographer and is known as the “Father of the Motion Picture” after he developed the zoopraxiscope, an early device for projecting moving pictures.
In 1868, he was employed by the U.S. government to photograph the landscapes and native people of Alaska, an assignment that led him to capture stunning images all across the West Coast of America.
Ten years later, he was asked by railroad manager Leland Stanford to prove that all four legs of a horse are off the ground while they run. At the time, camera exposures were seconds, if not minutes, meaning freezing a horse was impossible.
Undeterred by his initial failures, he set up a battery of 24 cameras with special shutters he had developed and used a new, more sensitive photographic process that drastically reduced exposure time.
He took successive photos of a horse in motion and mounted the images on a rotating disk and projected the images via a “magic lantern” onto a screen, giving birth to the motion picture in 1878.
Exposing Muybrige by Marc Shaffer stars Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman, a Muybridge collector, whose enthusiasm holds the audience’s attention, according to Film-Forward.
“The magic of Schaffer’s documentary is, of course, to take in Muybridge’s work, expertly restored on a large cinema screen and guided by experts such as Marta Braun, the director of Ryerson University’s film and photography preservation program,” writes The Film Stage, which gave the film a B+.
“Exposing Muybridge brings to light details of a fascinating life while Oldman provides dramatic elements from his own research, from Muybridge’s murder trial to his later career working with a diverse group of professors and the provost of the University of Pennsylvania on a well-known series of motion studies.
“The academics chosen by Shaffer also provide information that is technical, personal, and critical without ever feeling like a dry work of art history. The film, like Muybridge, is full of mystery, playfulness, and complexity—an illuminating and engaging history lesson.”
Muybridge was well-known for his eccentricity, with even his own name being chosen by himself for peculiarity purposes.
His later motion picture work featured a gratuitous obsession with the naked body and he was arrested for murder after being accused of shooting the man his wife was alleged to have been in an affair with, reports ThoughtCo.
At the trial, he pled insanity on the grounds that trauma from a previous head injury made it impossible for him to control his behavior. The jury rejected his argument but acquitted Muybridge calling the killing a case of “justifiable homicide.”
Information on where Exposing Murbridge is being shown globally can be found on the film’s website.