The Fire of Leuven. Chronicle of a War Crime

Project: The Fire of Leuven. Chronicle of a War Crime.

Beneficiary: Fonk vzw

Amount: 7.000 euros

Duration: December 2013 - August 2014

In late August 1914, Leuven fell victim to blind war rage. Virtually the entire city centre was systematically destroyed by the German occupying forces. In "De Brand van Leuven" Rudi Vranckx, war correspondent and inhabitant of Leuven, explains how this could happen and what the motives were for this terrible crime, which caused great indignation, not just in Belgium, but around the world.

"De Brand van Leuven" is a short documentary film (35 minutes) that was produced within the framework of the Great War Centenary Commemoration. The film was produced by Fonk vzw, the organisation behind Cinema ZED in Leuven, and was also made possible by the City of Leuven and the Flemish Community (Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs).

Research & sources

The writing of the scenario and the production of the film were preceded by a long intensive research period, during which existing and available moving image material about Leuven in 1914 was inventoried. As expected, the amount of available material was limited, since many recordings turned out to be lost. All the material that was left was almost entirely processed in this film. One vital element is the 9-minute newsreel item filmed by Topical Film, which is currently owned by the British Film Institute (UK). In addition, material was used from Fox Movietone (USA), as well as a (recently discovered) short fragment from the archives of Pathé-Gaumont (France).

Picture material on the other hand was still largely available. Intensive use was made of pictures from the City Archives of Leuven, which greatly contributed to the realisation of the film. The film contains a lot of pictures, scans of propaganda materials, postcards and plenty more. In order to compensate for the shortage of moving image material, a large number of high-resolution scans were 'brought to life': three-dimensional images were made of two-dimensional pictures of ruins. Camera movements over pictures become much more interesting, visually speaking, by entering an artificial perspective and 'cutting' pictures into layers.

As for text sources, use was made of a large quantity of available material. The scenario is mostly based on the text "De Brand van Leuven" by Mark Derez (KULeuven). Additional source material includes, among other things, "Brave Little Belgium" by Mark De Geest, "A Neutral Description of the Sack of Louvain" by Albert Fuglister and "Beelden van een verwoeste stad", published by the City of Leuven and compiled and written by Marika Ceunen.

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