The Sack Race

Course en sacs

Louis Lumière, France, 1896


This Lumière view was filmed by Louis Lumière in October 1996 in the Montplaisir region of Lyon, where the Lumières had their factory and family home.

A group of adult men take part in a sack race, but they do so with the best of humour and childlike joy, without any sense of seriousness or competitiveness. It’s all about giving as good a show to the two rows of spectators as they can, who look like they’re having as much fun as the racers themselves. 

The angle of the shot is as carefully chosen as the famous Train Arriving at La Ciotat

The perspective of the shot allows us to follow the racers across their entire journey and to see them close up when they arrive in front of the camera. We also see the spectators in the frame, who are just as important as the racers themselves. However, we feel that the spectators are a little too enthusiastic in their mimed enjoyment of the race, and wonder if they have been bribed by Louis Lumière’s assistants. An arm of one of the assistants can be seen in shot at one point, towards the end, encouraging the spectators to get out quicker. This makes everything we’ve seen feel like it’s been planned more than it first appeared, even if a dog randomly walking across the shot gives the sense of reality and chance back to this highly planned shot.