At the end of the nineteenth century, audiences were enthralled by the flickering image of an oncoming train in a Lumière Brothers' short film; more than a hundred years later the immersive fantasy of Avatar enveloped audiences around the globe.
Film is a communal dream in which our fears and fantasies are revealed, often to startling effect. It has influenced our behaviour in small but significant ways, from the widespread abandonment of vests after Clark Gable's example in It Happened One Night to gangsters holding their weapons at movie-cool angles, improving their image but not their aim. It has intertwined with politics, helping to forge national identity, galvanise against a wartime enemy or warn of social upheaval via horror or science fiction. It has burrowed deep into our psyche, changing perceptions of history and memory - one study showed soldiers' recall may sometimes owe more to war films than actual experience. It has even raised romantic expectations that for us, too, 'the one' will arrive for that big clinch in the final reel.
Despite decades of rapid change, we are still hypnotised and seduced by the power of cinema; it remains our most persuasive mass entertainment. In this fascinating, entertaining and illuminating book Francine Stock takes us on a personal journey through a glorious century of cinema, showing in vivid detail how film both reflects and makes our world.