Wells-next-the-Screen! - Seaside cinema to show epic five-hour silent Napoleon film

PUBLISHED: 10:54 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:24 27 October 2017

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)


Norfolk is well-known for many things, but perhaps the county’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of naval hero, Nelson.

Admiral Lord Nelson. Photo: © Norfolk Museums Service Admiral Lord Nelson. Photo: © Norfolk Museums Service

And now a north Norfolk cinema group will host a screening of a revolutionary silent epic film - about the life of Nelson’s great rival: Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon was created in 1927 by the French film director, writer, and producer Abel Gance.

However, the film’s release occurred just as ‘talkies’ were becoming popular, and its reception was lukewarm.

The Oscar-winning film historian, Kevin Brownlow, has devoted his career to restoring Napoleon, and will give a talk to introduce the film at its showing in Wells next month.

Seaside cinema group, Screen-next-the-Sea, will show the 1927 masterpiece in its entirety on Sunday, November 19.

The film, which is rarely shown outside of London, has a running time of five and a half hours.

The Wells screening is from 1.30 to 9.45pm, and includes three intervals, including a dinner break of an hour and a half.

It will offer viewers a unique opportunity to see a historical silent film, complete with a full orchestral score, by the American composer Carl Davies.

Director Martin Scorcese called the film “a genuine sensation”, and director Stanley Kubrick described it as “a masterpiece of cinematic invention”.

Screen-next-the-Sea Secretary, Joolz Saunders, described the showing as “our biggest event of the year”, and “a complete masterpiece”.

She said: “Its a big coup for us as a community cinema - we’ve been working our socks off to get everything organised.”

She added: “Its not your ordinary cinematic experience, its totally something else.

“People may be put off by the running time, but it really is riveting.”

“You’ll be wanting the breaks in the screening to finish so you can get back to watching the film.”

The group are a community cinema organisation, and will celebrate their 10th anniversary in June next year.

The screening will be held at Alderman Peel High School, on Market Lane, in Wells. More comfortable seating will be provided for viewers.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online from; or by phone from the Wells Tourist Information Centre on 01328 710885.

Napoleon and Nelson

Despite Horatio Nelson and Napoleon Bonaparte being bitter military rivals, their lives and careers were linked in a number of ways.

They served as commander and general in the British and French armies during the Revolutionary Wars of 1793-1802 but never met on the battlefield.

The two men even had a grudging respect for each other’s talents. Napoleon’s personal letters fell into Nelson’s hands in 1798, which displayed his ambition to the British commander.

Nelson later wrote: “He [Napoleon] does want and will strive to be, the [George] Washington of France,”

And Napoleon knew of Nelson’s reputation in Britain. During peacetime he placed a bust of Nelson on his dressing table to remind him of the man who had caused so much bloodshed for France.

And after Nelson’s famed words: “England expects that every man will do his duty” flag signal, Napoleon ordered a French translation to be displayed on all his ships.

Read more: Restored film about the life of Napoleon to be screened in Wells

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