Napoleon: BFI Restoration

Spanning five and a half hours, Abel Gance's silent film is a grand and ambitious account of the early life of Napoleon Bonaparte

The full restoration of Abel Gance’s 1927 film Napoleon, which began in the early 1980s, has finally been completed.

Accomplished by the BFI National Archive and Academy Award-winning film historian Kevin Brownlow, the film is about to be released in selected UK cinemas and on Blu-ray.

Napoleon was originally intended as a six-part series on the life of the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte. Only the first part was released, which captured Bonaparte’s early life through the French Revolution and up to the invasion of Italy.

It runs at five and a half hours, and is full of experimental techniques including a system Gance called “Polyvision”, which needed three cameras (to be projected on three screens) to achieve a panoramic effect. For it’s première at the Paris Opera in April 1927, Napoleon was shown to, among other distinguished members, the future General de Gaulle.