The Origins of Art in France

Celtic Art Treasures

Bringing together an unprecedented range of artefacts - jewels, animals in stone, carved figures and heads, abstract decorations on standing stones and primitive architecture - this film presents Celtic art in the context of Gallic civilization as a whole. The poetic and penetrating narrative by Max-Pol Fouchet stresses the art's supernatural roots in Druidic cults of gods, goddesses and heroes. For the Celts, we are told, 'the spirit and the head are inseparable,' and 'eternity is in the gaze.' Theirs is 'a religion of spiritual intensity,' of 'transcendence,' concerned with forces beyond human control. Fouchet hints at how the reduction of artistic forms to their expressive essentials relates to Scandinavian art of the period, to the distant oriental connections of the Celtic peoples, and indeed to modern Cubism and Abstraction. In Gallic art, we learn, abstraction and representation co-exist and merge. Fouchet's narration accompanies mesmeric sequences of intricate metalwork, ornaments, charms, 'souvenirs,' helmets (symbols of the French 'Gauloise' cigarette), and shots of desolate fortresses, tombs, and above all gazing, timeless heads.

We learn how Gallic culture developed against the backdrop of a yet more ancient prehistory, recorded in cromlechs and stone circles that the sculptor Rodin came to consider 'the predecessors to the great Gothic cathedrals.' We learn too how, with the coming of the Romans, Romano-Gallic art extended to the building of bridges, aqueducts and ornamented, columned façades. It is thus out of an extremely rich brew of cultures that French art evolves.

Reviews

'A masterly production. An enormous amount of documentary evidence shown very successfully.' UNESCO

Credits

Directors: Max-Pol Fouchet: Jean L'Hote
Narration: Max-Pol Fouchet

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Catalog number #20

38 minutes Monochrome

Age Range: 12 to Adult

Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript

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Film Located in: 1. Early Cultures | France