Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's talk about silent movies

A while ago, I watched Metropolis. This marvelous silent film was released in 1927 and directed by Fritz Lang. It was my first time watching a silent movie that wasn’t a comedy. I had to concentrate a little more, but this is one of the most fascinating and engaging movies I have seen. To watch a silent movie certainly requires an extra effort because you are following a plot written to be communicated basically with expressions and body language. Watching this movie was a very interesting experience indeed when movies nowadays are so different and full of magnificent sound, color, and special effects.

Since color film wasn’t available during the time silent films were made, some of those films were tinted manually, and when films were shown they usually featured live bands playing along with the movie to add some background sound. Something else that is different in comparison with the movies today is the price for a big production. Back in 1920’s a “big movie” would cost a little bit over $100,000, nothing compared with the millions and millions that big productions cost now. Unfortunately, a lot of these movies were recorded in nitrate film, which is extremely flammable; therefore, those movies have been lost. In some cases, the remaining movies are so damaged that they are hard to enjoy and appreciate.

Silent movies, however, are not something from the past. Currently there are some directors working on silent films all over the world like Jan Svankmajer and Andrew Legge. Some contemporary silent movie titles are: Femerlin’s Song and Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish

Every year, Belgium is the host of the Brussels International Festival of Contemporary Silent Film that shows short and full length silent movies. If you haven’t seen one, would you like to give it a try?

Here are some of the titles of silent movies that Austin Public Library has available:


Beloved Rogue

Hands of Orlac

Red Kimona


The Battleship Potemkin

Pandora’s Box

In case you want to read about this topic or silent movie stars here are some ideas:

The Silent Cinema in Song, 1896-1929: An Illustrated History and Catalog of Songs Inspired by the Movies and Stars, with a List of Recordings

Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture

Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom

The Valentino Mystique: The Death and Afterlife of the Silent Film Idol

Silent Film Sound

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