The sci-fi movie “Atlantis” (also known as “Lost Atlantis”) is a French silent film classic directed by Jacques Feyder in 1921. It is a film adaptation of the novel “L’Atlantis” by Pierre Benoit, published in 1919.
The plot of the film follows the French adventurer Pierre Morhange, played by Jean Angelo, and his friend the infantry sergeant Jean-Baptiste Morhange, played by Stacia Napierkowska, who join a French military expedition in North Africa during World War I. During their journey across the desert, the two friends get lost and end up in an oasis that turns out to be the ancient vanished city of Atlantis, ruled by the evil Queen Antinea, played by Brigitte Helm.
Feyder’s Atlantis film was highly praised upon its release for its stylistic sophistication and showmanship. The sets, costumes, and special effects were state-of-the-art for the time, and the film received widespread praise for the performance of the lead actors. In particular, Brigitte Helm, who would rise to fame for her role in Fritz Lang’s silent film classic “Metropolis,” received praise for her portrayal of Queen Antinea.
The film influenced many other subsequent cinematic works that dealt with the theme of Atlantis and lost civilizations. The film has also been reproduced in various versions and restored over the years, remaining a classic of French silent cinema.
The plot of the film “Atlantis” follows the story of the French adventurer Pierre Morhange, played by Jean Angelo, and his friend the infantry sergeant Jean-Baptiste Morhange, played by Stacia Napierkowska. The two join a French military expedition in North Africa during the First World War. During their journey through the desert, the two friends get lost and end up in an oasis that turns out to be the ancient vanished city of Atlantis.
There, Pierre meets Queen Antinea, played by Brigitte Helm, who rules over the lost city. The queen falls in love with Pierre and tries to convince him to stay in Atlantis, offering him the chance to become her lover and rule alongside her. Pierre, however, remains faithful to his homeland and tries to escape with his friend Jean-Baptiste.
During their escape, the two friends discover that Antinea has already killed many men who had fallen in love with her, including Pierre’s father, which makes him want even more to leave Atlantis. However, Queen Antinea has no intention of letting them go easily and begins to implement various ruses to stop them.
Meanwhile, the French expedition, to which the two friends belonged, continues its march across the desert in search of Atlantis. When the expedition reaches the oasis, it finds only traces of the two missing friends. The captain of the expedition, at the request of Queen Antinea, decides to postpone the search for Pierre and Jean-Baptiste so as not to endanger the lives of his men.
Meanwhile, the two friends try to flee across the desert, but are finally captured by Antinea’s men. The queen orders Jean-Baptiste to be killed, while Pierre is condemned to remain in Atlantis forever as her prisoner.
However, shortly after the sentence, the city of Atlantis is destroyed by a violent earthquake, and Pierre manages to escape with the help of a faithful servant of Antinea. Pierre returns to civilization and discovers that the French expedition was able to find the traces of Atlantis thanks to an indication that the servant had given him.
The film “L’Atlantis” was produced in France in 1921 by the production company Société des Films Albatros. Director Jacques Feyder, who had previously directed several successful silent films in Europe, was chosen to helm the project, which was seen as a chance to bring Pierre Benoit’s popular novel ‘Atlantis’ to the big screen.
The film was shot in a number of locations in North Africa including Tunis, the Sahara Desert and Morocco. The production team built large and luxurious sets to recreate the atmosphere of Atlantis and its majestic palaces. In addition, several special effects were also used for the film to represent the earthquake destroying Atlantis.
The cast consisted of renowned European actors, including Jean Angelo, Brigitte Helm and Stacia Napierkowska. Angelo and Napierkowska played the two French friends who are reunited in Atlantis, while Helm played Queen Antinea, the evil ruler of the lost city.
The film was a big hit upon its release in France and later had a significant impact on international cinematography. Its spectacularity and stylistic sophistication influenced many other directors and laid the foundation for the creation of many other films on the theme of Atlantis and lost civilizations.
Distribution and Reception
The film “Atlantis” was first released in France in 1921 and was later shown in different parts of the world. The film was received with great enthusiasm by audiences and critics, who appreciated director Jacques Feyder’s audacity and the spectacularity of the sets and special effects.
In particular, the film was praised for its ability to create an evocative and mysterious atmosphere, which captured the imagination of moviegoers at the time. Additionally, Brigitte Helm’s performance of Queen Antinea has been seen as one of the most impressive performances in silent cinema.
The success of “Atlantis” helped cement Feyder’s reputation as one of the most innovative and talented directors in European cinema at the time. Also, the film inspired many other directors and authors to create works on the theme of Atlantis and lost civilizations.
In general, critics and audiences appreciated the film’s aesthetic sophistication and technical mastery, which was seen as one of the great masterpieces of French silent cinema. Even today, “L’Atlantis” is considered a film of great importance in the cinema history and continues to be studied and appreciated by critics and film enthusiasts around the world.
The movie “Atlantis” was made in expressionist style, an artistic movement that spread widely in Germany in the 1920s and which stood out for its use of visual and symbolic effects to express man’s anguish and despair in a world in crisis. This style has fused with elements of French classicism to create a unique and very impressive aesthetic experience.
The technique used by Jacques Feyder in “L’Atlantis” was very innovative for the time. The director used various shooting techniques, including close-up and long shot, to create a sense of realism and immersion in the viewer. Furthermore, he used light and shadow to create suggestive and mysterious atmospheres, which contributed to making the film a unique and unforgettable experience.
The sets, costumes and special effects were created with great attention to detail and were used to create the fantastic and majestic atmosphere of Atlantis. In particular, the sets were created with great care and with great attention to detail, to make the image of a lost and majestic city believable.
Finally, the soundtrack, although originally composed to be played by a pianist or an orchestra, has been updated over the years to adapt to new technologies and new audiovisual formats. The soundtrack was one of the key elements to create the film’s atmosphere and to involve the viewer in an intense emotional experience.
Jacques Feyder was one of the most important directors of the french cinema from the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Belgium in 1885, he moved to France in the late 10s and began working as a stage and film actor. In 1921 he directed his first film, “Le Pied qui étreint”, which was well received by critics and the public.
But Feyder’s success came with “Visages d’enfants” (1925), a film that earned him international critical acclaim and established him as one of the most important directors of his generation. From then on, Feyder stood out for his ability to mix elements of German expressionist cinema with those of French classicism, creating a unique and immersive viewing experience.
In time, Feyder became one of the most prolific and respected directors of his era, directing highly successful films such as “La Kermesse héroïque” (1935) and “Carnet de bal” (1937). In 1933 he moved to the United States, where he worked as a director for several years, directing such films as “The Kiss Before the Mirror” (1933) and “Daybreak” (1939).
After World War II, Feyder returned to Europe and continued to work in the film business, but his style and techniques were now considered outdated and the success of the 1920s and 1930s was hard to repeat. He died of a heart attack in 1948, aged 63, but his influence on French and world cinema continues to be felt today.