I don’t know precisely the right word to describe what someone in The Netherlands did with their movie camera over 100 years ago. They filmed a busy port of Amsterdam, freighters, passenger ships, lighters, warehouses, quays, trams, freight trains. Now I see a lateen rigged schooner pass through the camera’s view. It is a busy harbour in a city that would escape the catastrophe of The Great War.
The women wear long skirts in the Edwardian style. The men wear suits, ties, bowler hats, flat caps. There is no litter on the street. That suggests either a cultural value of fastidiousness, or a society that did not produce items deemed unworthy of retaining. Were there no pop bottles, beer bottles, potato chip bags, cigarette packages, newspapers?
The scenes had moments that looked like a scale model train layout. Now there is ferry taking a horse and wagon across the harbour, now a ship in dry dock.
We could call it modern. Children filmed in these movies could have lived into the twenty-first century, suffered under Nazi occupation, seen the transformation of the Dutch East Indies into Indonesia, the advent of passenger automobiles, air travel, satellites, women’s emancipation, radio, television, computers, artificial hormonal contraception, antibiotics, just for starters. Oh, and nuclear weapons. Let’s not leave those out.
We have our eye on the future and whatever it may bring, but we should always remember that the old culture was not that long ago.