Lyrical Nitrate

Peter Delpeut

Peter Delpeut, Lyrical Nitrate

50 minutes, color, sound, 35mm

Netherlands 1990


Lyrical Nitrate is a compilation of film fragments dating from the years 1905–1915. Originally these films were distributed in the Netherlands by Jean Desmet. His distribution catalogue is now inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register and taken care of by Eye Filmmuseum.

In Lyrical Nitrate filmmaker Peter Delpeut shows the film images in the original rich colours in which they were exhibited in the early days of cinema. And, as if like then the projector is run by hand, he subtly manipulates the speed of the fragments according to the mood of the images. Delpeut makes the modern spectator experience early cinema as an opera about love and death, scored by Bizet, Masek and Puccini. (Peter Delpeut)

The more the film progresses, the more its material base becomes noticeable: at the end, a flickering pattern of decaying nitrate has replaced the photographic image. (Ju.Ju.Li.)


Peter Delpeut (born 1956) lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands.


André Habib, “Ruin, Archive and the Time of Cinema: Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate,” SubStance, no. 35 (2006), pp. 120–139.

Peter Delpeut, “An Unexpected Reception: Lyrical Nitrate Between Film History and Art,” in Found Footage: Cinema Exposed, eds. Marente Bloemheuvel, Giovanna Fossati, Jaap Guldemond (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press and EYE Film Institute Netherlands, 2012), pp. 217–224.

Nicholas Chare and Liz Watkins, “The Material of Film: Decasia and Lyrical Nitrate,” in Carnal Knowledge. Towards a „New Materialism” through the Arts, eds. Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt (London: Tauris, 2013), pp. 75–87.


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