History of a crime (movie, 1901)

History of a Crime (sometimes called The Story of a Crime 1 ) is a French film directed by Ferdinand Zecca , released in 1901 .


Entering the night in a bank, a burglar stabs the cashier-guardian. He is arrested in the company of courtesans as he squanders the stolen money. At the morgue, in front of the corpse of the cashier, he falls on his knees and asks for forgiveness. In his cell, he sleeps on a bedstead and three important memories of his life appear successively on the wall: 1 / Still child, his mother accompanies him in the paternal carpentry where his father embraces him affectionately. 2 / Teenager, apprentice, he takes a seat at the family table after kissing his parents. 3 / Adult, he loses his salary in a café by playing cards with a cheater. Furious at his luck, he sees a man come in ordering a liquor, showing off to pay for a well stocked purse. The future assassin follows suit when he leaves. The flashback fades on the wall. The door of the cell then opens, leaving a priest and five men in frock-coat, looking stern, waking the prisoner and going out with him. He is tied up, his hair shaved on his neck, his shirt open, exhorted by the priest who brandishes a crucifix. Taken to a courtyard where the woods of the guillotine stand, he is executed2 .

Technical sheet

  • Title: History of a Crime or The Story of a Crime
  • Director: Ferdinand Zecca
  • Scenario: Ferdinand Zecca
  • Photography: Ferdinand Zecca
  • Set decorations: Ferdinand Zecca
  • Production: Pathé
  • Distribution: Pathé , France and the United States (with Edison Manufacturing Company )
  • Duration: 5 minutes (109.73 meters 3 )
  • Format: Black and white – silent movie – 1.33: 1
  • Release dates:
    •  France : May 1901
    •  United States :May 1902


Main source: Internet Movie Database 4 .

  • Jean Liézer
  • Bretteau
  • Ferdinand Zecca


  • Georges Franju :
“The tragi-comic of Zecca was at once naive, unbridled, primitive and new, of a kind then unidentified. One day, we will give him a name: black humor. » 1

Around the film

  • In History of a crime , Ferdinand Zecca realizes the first flashback of cinema 1 . He took the opportunity to make a time ellipse, a figure of style rarely used at the time, eliminating the trial of the murderer, passing from his repentance in front of the victim’s body on his last night before the execution.
  • Contrary to what is most often written in the history of cinema, the three crime history anamnesis plans are not brought either by an overprint or a fixed cache (black reserve not impressed), or by a “transparency”. “(retro-projection, a technique that appeared in the 1930s). Ferdinand Zecca, creator of his own sets, has built a niche on top of the casket of the condemned man behind him, which is discovered instead of the painted canvas representing the wall, by the rigging at Méliès of “the stop of camera”. In this niche, in fact an elevated walkable floor, each scene appears successively, and the actors play on the boards. Among the memories, camera stop allows scene changes and necessary actors, and at the end of the third memory, the painted canvas is given to close the niche, on the occasion of a last substitution splice 2 .

External links

  • In ) History of a crime [ archive ] on the Internet Movie Database
  • In ) History of a crime [ archive ] on culturewars.org.uk
  •  Available  [ archive ] on YouTube

Notes and references

  1. ↑ a , b and c The Key Films of Claude Beylie’s Cinema , Bordas , ( ISBN  2040163565 )
  2. ↑ a and b Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588 p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  107-108
  3. ↑ Section “Technical data”  [ archive ] on the Internet Movie Database .
  4. ↑ History of a crime [ archive ] on the Internet Movie Database .

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