The essay analyses Abel Gance’s J’accuse, in its three versions, respectively from 1918, 1937 and 1956. In its original version, the film represents a complex mixing of melodrama and war film. On the one hand, it is sheer patriotism, and on the other an attempt to come to terms with the breathtaking bloodshed that had just took place. The essay starts reconstructing the whole context of Gance’s relationship with the Great War, even before he started to work on J’accuse. The sound edition of 1937 drastically reconfigured the ideological content of the movie, turning a mildly nationalistic story into a straightforward anti-war narrative, in tune with the pacifist film production of those years. In 1956, Gance went back again to his silent work, this time in order to update not its political content, but its technology, thanks to polyvision, a technique of multiple projection that the director had already experimented with his other silent masterpiece Napoleon (1928).
Keywords: Abel Gance; mourning; nationalism; pacifism; sound; technology