Abel Gance and the End of Silent Cinema

Sounding out Utopia

  • Paul Cuff

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxxii
  2. Overcoming the Past

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-4
    2. Paul Cuff
      Pages 5-20
    3. Paul Cuff
      Pages 21-39
    4. Paul Cuff
      Pages 41-55
    5. Paul Cuff
      Pages 57-77
    6. Back Matter
      Pages 79-80
  3. Impossible Dreams

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 81-84
    2. Paul Cuff
      Pages 105-131
    3. Back Matter
      Pages 133-135
  4. The Marvel of Ruins

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 137-142
    2. Paul Cuff
      Pages 143-166
    3. Paul Cuff
      Pages 167-176
    4. Paul Cuff
      Pages 177-198
    5. Back Matter
      Pages 199-204
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 205-241

About this book


This book explores the creation and destruction of Abel Gance’s most ambitious film project, and seeks to explain why his meteoric career was so nearly extinguished at the end of silent cinema. By 1929, Gance was France’s most famous director. Acclaimed for his technical innovation and visual imagination, he was also admonished for the excessive length and expense of his productions. Gance’s first sound film, La Fin du Monde (1930), was a critical and financial disaster so great that it nearly destroyed his career. But what went wrong? Gance claimed it was commercial sabotage whilst critics blamed the director’s inexperience with new technology. Neither excuse is satisfactory. Based on extensive archival research, this book re-investigates the cultural background and aesthetic consequences of Gance’s transition from silent filmmaking to sound cinema. La Fin du Monde is revealed to be only one element of an extraordinary cultural project to transform cinema into a universal religion and propagate its power through the League of Nations. From unfinished films to unrealized social revolutions, the reader is given a fascinating tour of Gance’s lost cinematic utopia.


Abel Gance Transition to sound Silent cinema Film history Film style Utopia WWI Religion Pacifism Science fiction Apocalypse French film

Authors and affiliations

  • Paul Cuff
    • 1
  1. 1.Warwick UniversityCoventryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information