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This content is taken from the The British Film Institute (BFI)'s online course, The Living Picture Craze: An Introduction to Victorian Film. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsSuch a bustle and a hurry o'er the 'living picture' craze. Rivals rushing, full of worry in these advertising days. Each the first and each the only, each the others widely chaff. All of them proclaiming boldly, 'There's the first A-kind-o-graph'. But it's a wonder, really, how the constant flood of life o'er the screen keeps moving freely. Full of action, stir and strife. There the waves are wildly breaking. There the swimmer stems the tide. The cyclist his record making, with the countless varied scenes beside. 'Tis far from perfect in its movements. 'Tis very hard upon the eyes. The jolty wobble no improvements, smooth-running films a surprise.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsStill, successful beyond reason, spite of all its erring ways, holding first place in the season is the living picture craze.

Welcome to the course and to Week 1

Hello and a warm welcome to the course and to the late Victorian age! Our focus is short, 1895-1901, only six years in total, but what an incredibly exciting time of innovation, invention and spectacle. Farewell 1800s and hello to the twentieth century: a time of rapid modernisation and unprecedented change.

This introductory video encapsulates the themes and types of materials you’ll be exploring over the next three weeks. Impressively, the poem was written only one year after the invention of film itself in 1896. Why is this surprising? Probably because of the huge variety of film content it lists, but perhaps also because it sounds so modern. Nearly every aspect of filmmaking that we know today was tried during the first few years of projected moving pictures: sound and colour, news, travelogues, drama, fantasy and comedy. We will come back to this idea throughout the course.

You can take a closer look at the poem by downloading it from the download section.

Week 1 explores six key myths around the late Victorian Age and the earliest films. Weeks 2 and 3 take a closer look at the ‘living pictures’ themselves through the lens of the Victorian world and the Victorian imagination.

This week we’re going to explore:

  • myths and assumptions about the Victorian period in Britain
  • preconceived ideas around the figure of Queen Victoria
  • Queen Victoria’s relationship to the new and developing forms of visual media
  • myths and assumptions that have evolved around early film

Meet our course team

Don’t forget to follow our course team below – they’ll be providing course support in the Comments sections throughout the next three weeks. Simply click on their profiles below and click the Follow button.

Gemma Starkey - Lead Educator

Bryony Dixon - Educator

Mark Reid - Educator

Please note the course team will do their best to support you throughout the course; however due to the large number of comments received on our courses, they may not be able to answer everyone individually. Look for common-thread responses from the course team which will be pinned to the the top of the Comments section.

Navigating the course

This may be the first course that you have undertaken on FutureLearn, or perhaps the first course you have taken online, so here’s an overview of the site’s features.

Time requirements of the course

The Living Picture Craze is designed to take three non-consecutive hours to complete each week. This will entail viewing of videos and primary source material, reading articles, taking part in discussion forums and completing quizzes and polls. Please do get involved and post comments when you can; we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

In addition, you will find a wide range of complementary material and ‘See Also’ links. Please note that following these links and reading or watching this additional material will add to your weekly learning time.

Accessing the course films

We have curated a BFI course Vimeo account consisting of films from the course and related films which may be of interest. The password for this is: bfi-LPC:IVF

Meet our course contributors:

Our contributors include Professor Ian Christie from Birkbeck College, University of London, Professor Joe Kember and Professor John Plunkett from the University of Exeter, and Bryony Dixon from the BFI National Archive. Find out more about them at the end of the course.

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Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn

A Certificate of Achievement: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Living Picture Craze: An Introduction to Victorian Film

The British Film Institute (BFI)

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