The One-Man Band (1900)

One Man Band (1900)

With older films, the skill of directing and producing them can often only be appreciated when we have an understanding of how the various techniques would have had to have been used.

In The One-Man Band, Georges Méliès is both the director and only actor in a cast of seven. He arrives on screen and multiplies himself to create a band made up solely of himself, before utilising other techniques to make the chairs appear and disappear.

In order to create the illusion of multiplying himself, Méliès would have recorded one version of the film, then wound back the film and recorded another version over the top of the original... seven times. This risks the film becoming over-exposed because part of the film would have been exposed at least seven times longer than normal. While Méliès keeps this under control the difficulty is evident by the subtle change in brightness of each iteration.

In addition, a certain amount of luck is required so that the film doesn't tear, meaning it would have to be re-recorded from scratch. Finally, the timing of each iteration needs to be accurate to ensure the band plays, stops and bows at the same time needs to be accurate seven times in a row. The result, with all this borne in mind, is truly extraordinary.

This technique was later copied and utilised in a comedic storyline by one of silent cinema's greatest stars, Buster Keaton, in the first act of his film The Playhouse (1921).

Not content with multiple exposures, Méliès spends the second half of the film adding in jump cuts to make himself and other objects appear and disappear.

The One-Man Band is truly a film visionary at the top of his game pioneering all of his skills, wrapped up in less than two minutes.


  1. This one is fun!

    Classic Films A-to-Z:


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