This Christmas Is 100 Years Old

The Little Match Seller (1902) / The Little Match Girl (1914)

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl is probably the saddest story ever written, and these two adaptations of it are suitably bleak.

The Little Match Seller, directed in 1902 by Percy Nash, is a masterpiece of minimalism. A single static shot of a young homeless girl in the snow, it makes great use of overlays/double exposures as she dreams of some heat and warmth and maybe even a smidgen of Christmas cheer. But of course there is none to be found.

It’s less than four minutes long, and utterly heartbreaking.

The second version, this time called The Little Match Girl, was directed by James Williamson in 1914. This one is a more elaborate affair, and piles on even more misery by including an alcoholic father and an absent, possibly dead, mother.

There’s some nice use of tinting here, which gives a fairly brutal sense of cold and genuine warmth to the relevant scenes, and the staging of the dreams is well done (although the animated turkey is both slightly strange and strangely unsettling). But though I liked it a lot, overall it lacks something compared to the economical poetry of the earlier version.

Merry Christmas, everyone.



1. I watched the 1902 version on youtube.

2. And the 1914 version on the BFI Player.

3. And you can read the original story here.

4. If you dare.

5. The 1914 version has Dutch intertitles. I’ve made some rough translations below (using google translate rather than any actual understanding of the language, so they might be wildly out):

2. On Christmas Eve
3. "Not a single bunch sold so far."
4. "Daddy will hit me."
5. Her father's daily abode.
6. If only she had her mother again.
7. "Did you bring me a lot of money?"
8. "Get out! And don't you dare come back without some money!"
9. "Would you like some matches, Sir?"
10. Barefoot
12. "Let me light just one match to keep me warm."
13. What she dreamed as she lit the second match.
14. "Just one more, because it's so terribly cold!"
15. "Take me with you, Mother. Don't leave me again!"
16. Christmas Morning - rest now, forever.


Film Information

Title: The Little Match Seller
Director: James Williamson
Year: 1902
Duration: 3 minutes
Watch: youtube

Title: The Little Match Girl
Director: Percy Nash
Year: 1914
Duration: 10 minutes
Watch: BFI Player; youtube

This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

Falling Leaves (1912) / La Fee Aux Choux (1896/1900/1902)

Falling Leaves is a short drama about a woman dying from TB, and her younger sister’s determination to save her. It was directed in 1912 by Alice Guy-Blache, the pioneering French filmmaker, who was, it seems, the first person who ever thought to actually make scripted narratives (the faintly terrifying La Fee Aux Choux), rather than using cameras purely for capturing documentary footage.

The centrepiece of Falling Leaves is the wonderful scene where the ailing woman’s young sister over hears the doctor saying that she’ll be dead by the time the leaves have fallen from the tree, and so decides to try and tie the leaves to the branches, so that her sister can live on (and she does!)

Sorry, that was a spoiler.

Now, like I said, La Fee Aux Choux is thought to be the first scripted narrative on film. The original is lost, unfortunately, but Alice Guy-Blache remade it twice (in 1900 and 1902), and it’s that 1900 version that I watched here (although the youtube versions all label it as the 1896 version). The film’s only a minute long, and features a fairy plucking new born babies from the cabbages they grew in.

Anyway, it’s terrifying. It really is.



1. I watched Falling Leaves on blu-ray, as part of this excellent BFI box set.

2. But as I don’t have a blu-ray player in my laptop, the screenshots came from youtube.

3. The disc version had a really great soundtrack (by Serge Bromberg).

4. Which the youtube version sadly lacks.

5. I watched La Fee Aux Choux on youtube though.

6. In super blur o vision, unfortunately.

7. You might be able to find better quality versions out there somewhere

8. But I could not.


Film Information

Title: Falling Leaves
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1912
Duration: 12 minutes
Watch: youtube; Internet Archive

Title: La Fee Aux Choux
Director: Alice Guy-Blache
Year: 1896/1900/1902
Duration: 1 minute
Watch: youtube