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The time when Vjenceslav Novak frequented the cinema theater

A historical research paper on several journalistic responses to the film by the notable Croatian novelist Vjenceslav Novak (e. g. his SF story Telepatoautophotocinematograph, published in 1900), and on some characteristics of the surrounding cinematic life in Croatia at the time.

When Zagreb photographer Rudolf Mosinger invited Samuel Hofmann from Vienna with his cinema equipment and Lumiere’s programme of films to organize the first film show in Zagreb in 1896, Zagreb population hailed the new invention with enthusiasm. The film experience was considered better then experience with glass photographs (in German: Nebelbildern or Glasdiapositiven). The wide popularity of film (even with Zagreb nobility), lead the Department for religious observances in Zagreb to issue a permit for school organized children’s attendance at chosen film shows (generally, entertainment shows in town were forbidden for school teachers and school children). At the time, Izidor Kršnjavi (a notable public figure, art historian) has, as a head of the Art society, established the »Art&Science Theater« called Urania, and he and Oton Kučera (an important Croatian physicist) organized (in December 1900) the end of century multimedia show presenting the contemporary image of the world — of nature, politics, art and science — through verbal exposition, astronomical and microscopical pictures, X-ray pictures, photographs, slide projections, music and — cinema projections.

They gave a guided tour through the cosmos and over the planet Earth, from the Northern pole to Africa, they showed images from Boer war and from China, gave a tour through the World Exposition in Paris and through the Louvre and finished the show with the Croatian Anthem. The show was an obvious inspiration to Vjenceslav Novak, an imporant Croatian novelist (at that time a high school professor and feuilletonist in the main daily paper Obzor), and he wrote a SF story (published in 1900 under the pseudonym dr. Urania) about the new invention by »dr. Optica«, invention named telepatoautophotocinematograph, a small device enabling its owner to choose telepathically a target and project its image on the wall in front of him.

The author developed a satirical phantasy what could be learned through such an device (e. g. a Croatian parliament representative writes his speech and an English parliament member spies him, and the next day Croatian representative is surprised as he reads his words and ideas in an English press report from the English parliament). Within the article there is also a casual description of the cinema’s nature: »cinematography, a known art of capturing images of life with photographic apparatus, and then enabling us to reproduce them at any time, the reproduced images being equally vivid as they were at the time they were taken.« (film was called, besides »cinematograph«, also a »live photography« at that time in Croatia).

Vjekoslav Majcen

Vladimir Kraus Rajterić — a film music composer

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