World War I

Although not the first conflict to touch cinema, the Great War, from August 1914 to November 1918, was unprecedented in scale. The visual power of film, combined with the aural suggestiveness of music, endowed cinema with a unique social function during the war. In both documentary and fiction, the war rallied the film industry to produce mass entertainment, education, and, of course, propaganda, as the industry fell under increasing government control. By the end of the war, cinema had achieved prestige as an art form appealing to the middle classes through the new picture palaces. In Europe, however, the conflict placed previously dominant national cinemas such as those of France and Italy in stasis, in some cases never to recover. Others, such as those of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, found the blockade of foreign imports surprisingly fortuitous in fostering distinctive new cycles of production.

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