Pope Leo XIII (1898 - 1903)
|Director||William K.L. Dickson|
|Countries||Italy United Kingdom United States Vatican City State|
(Country Spesific) SS Papa Leone XIII
(Eight rolls.) American Mutoscope & Biograph
(Five or Six titles.) British Mutoscope & Biograph Company
American and British Mutoscope & Biograph Company, with William K.L. Dickson, got in 1898 special access to follow Pope Leo XIII around in his daily tasks, and by that, they created an abundance of scenes. He claimed that he spent four months negotiating with the Vatican to get access. Dickson managed to convince the Pope to go out in the sun for better lighting for the camera. Pope Leo XIII was 78 years old at the time. The Italian version claims this to be from 1896.
The film was viewed with the Mutoscope viewer, where each frame was printed on paper and showed in fast succession to produce a moving picture. In 1958 the images were photographed one by one and transferred to film, and what we have today is a digitalized version of some of the resulting films from these paper cards. Pope Leo XIII was the first Pope to be recorded on film. These films were made between 1898 and 1903, with most done in 1898 and the three 1903 films almost certainly 1898 titles reissued to commemorate the Pope's death.
29 titles are usually listed, here combined into one entity as they were filmed around the same time for the same project.
This set of films are the first-ever shot of a Pope, namely Pope Leo XIII. William K.L. Dickson apparently used a lot of time getting the permission to do so, and I'm happy he did not give up because it gave us this early example of a historical film of great importance. It is not much, the clips that survive, and they are a bit repetitive in the sense that the Pope always gives his blessing - but then, what else could he do. I have visited the Vatican and seen the horse carriage myself, so it was cool to see it present on film.