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Visit biografmuseet.dk about Danish cinemas


We saw NAPOLEON on Sunday in Amsterdam

The 70mm Newsletter
Written & Photographed by: Udo Heimansberg, Metropol Düsseldorfer Filmkunstkino GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany Date: 19.06.2014
Johan C.W. Wolthuis, Agnes Bal, Udo Heimansberg and Jan-Hein Bal

A very special event took place on Sunday, 15th of June 2014:

A screening of the 5 ½ hour version of Abel Gance's masterpiece from 1927, "NAPOLEON" at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam before an audience of about 4.000 people!

Carl Davis (*1936) conducted Het Gelders Orkest in a breathtaking tour de force. His score, with excerpts from compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his own, is, as
Kevin Brownlow, surprise guest of the evening, stated “The best score written for this epic”!

When, after 5 hours, the screen opened for the Polyvision scenes on a 40m wide screen, audience applauded. It was a perfect screening (35mm), wonderful and restless musicians, and a composer/conductor fit for this 5 ½ hour job at the age of 78! Magnificent and an experience of a lifetime!
More in 70mm reading:

Kevin Brownlow

Carl Davis

Projecting “Napoleon” – une pièce de resistance

“Napoleon" in San Francisco

Das Vergessene Tal In Innsbruck

Internet link:


Travel to Amsterdam

Polyvision and the big orchestra

started at 2.00 p.m. and ended at 10.15 p.m. with standing ovations. Applause for the composer / conductor Carl Davis, the Gelders Orkest and Abel Gance's epic masterpiece, here presented with an integrale version of 5 ½ hours running time + intermissions.

We sat in the middle of row three with the screen above us - and this really was “above” and the pain in our necks started after a while. But there were intermissions and we could recover- and when it came to 40 meter wide Polyvision pain was gone! Nearly 10.000 people applauded when three projectors offered a Cinerama-like panoramic view in amazing perfection! (Remember- it was made in 1927!) Also three different pictures gave a split-screen impression and at the end were tinted red-white-blue so, with the rousing music of Carl Davis, we all felt French! (The film itself was mostly tinted as it was custom in 1927 except the snow-scenes in the beginning!)
Metropol Düsseldorfer Filmkunstkino GmbH
HRB 34556, Amtsgericht Düsseldorf


After the show on the 40 meter screen

It was an exhausting job for both the orchestra and the conductor. But they did extremely well, it was inspired, precise and nearly faultless. Chapeau!

Carl Davis, famous for his silent film scores including the brillant "Ben-Hur", started to work on this project in the summer of 1980. At that time the movie run for about 5 hours. His idea was to use music by composers of that period, above all Ludwig van Beethoven. But there was a problem in the relationship between the composer and Napoleon: Beethoven admired him in the beginning and dedicated his 3rd symphony to him. But as Napoleon became emperor, Beethoven changed his opinion and crossed out the dedication. On the other hand the film ends before that in 1797, Abel Gance himself later mentioned that he was inspired by Beethoven's music (although the first score was composed by Arthur Honnegger). More inspired music came from period music, songs of the revolution (La Marseillaise) and folk music of Corsica. There are some portions of music by Mozart, Haydn and a piece of music which was a favourite of Napoleon himself: an aria from the opera “Nina” by Paisiello.
Carl Davis after the Show

There are themes composed by Davis himself like the “Eagle-theme” and a theme for Napoleon's relationship to Josephine. There is also a bow to Honegger including one of his arrangements for the first performance in 1927. In fact this is the way the silent movie composers compiled their scores in these days, but Davis´ approach is a very complex matter and a bulk of notes for a 5 ½ hours live experience.

I came from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam, only about 3 hours to travel by car, and met some friends there. Jan-Hein Bal from the Filmmuseum Amsterdam. his wife Agnes and Johan C.W. Wolthuis, household names to in70mm.com readers. We all enjoyed this day and it was our opinion that this was an experience of a lifetime! Thanks to Carl Davis, Het Gelders Orkest, Abel Gance, the unknown projectionists who did a perfect job (yes, it was 35mm!) and all the people working for that event!
Napoleon, Abel Gance, Kevin Brownlow, Carl Davis & Orchester

During intermissions there was everything: food, snacks, drinks (for me ice-cold Heineken, which was still cold after 45 minutes….) And all for 37,50 Euro (compare that to a Rolling Stones concert…), worth every single cent!

A last surprise was the announcement by Carl Davis that Kevin Brownlow was in the audience! He entered the stage and got some well deserved applause! He also stated, that this score was the best ever written for "NAPOLEON". (He did not mention the name of Carmine Coppola whose music was used during the eighties in Germany and which I did not like that much!)

For your information:
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entree & diner buffet € 67,50

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Updated 07-01-23