Why I love Silent Films (And Why you should, Too! )I love silent films. I accept that most people, assuming they’ve seen a silent film, probably don’t share my affection for them. Why if he or she? After all, they’re in monochrome (usually); the acting’s a little more intense than we’re used to (sometimes); and, for sobbing out loud, you have to read them Silencil!
I don’t really expect anyone else to love silent films. It’s true that, in the 21st century, they can seem a bit posture, nonresident and archaic. But here are some of why I love them and why I think that everyone should take the time to spin a selection silent picture here and there…
It’s a Whole World of Movies That we Never Knew Existed
Suppose there’s a secret movie theatre comprised of thousands of movies from every type which exist at the base of the horizon where few people think to look. That’s silent movie theatre. Once you’re in the know, the array of film is broader, deeper and richer than you could have previously imagined. Westerns, science fiction, crime dramas, romantic comedies, horror, all represented by some of the finest — and most sometimes seen — movies ever made. When you’ve seen some of these, you will quickly find that…
Silent Films Enhance Our Appreciation of Recent Films
Silent film is, by its very nature, an powerfully visual medium. Direction, cinematography and performance are all focused purely upon what is visible to the eye. Famous actors had only their body gesture and facial expressions to bring to mind a character and tell a tale. They had no option to debate. This is why so much of the acting of the period seems overwrought to today’s viewers. Once you learn to understand silent performance, however, you will quickly spot current famous actors and stars who really know how to act with their faces and, indeed, with their whole bodies as opposed to those who just stand around and talk.
Likewise, cinematography was a potent storytelling device. A trial pans from a western outlaw to the woman he’s locked up — and then follows her sightline to the rifle on the table. This kind of device is, of course, the main basic sentence structure of film, but the lack of debate throws cinematographic technique into bold relief. We really set out to notice and to appreciate how the camera alone can tell a tale.
Get ess internalized the purely visual style of silent film, you’ll notice their great economy. What requires two or three pages of debate in a talkie is often disseminated in a silent picture by a single shot.
They are a Window Into Another Time
If you’ve ever desired for a time machine (and who has never? ), silent films may be as close as you might get to owning one. A movie shot on location, like a lot of Harold Lloyd’s SPEEDY, permits us to be passive observers to some moments of day-to-day life over 70 years ago.
More significantly, silent films are a window into the mindset of the era. An alternative way to gain a knowledge of the general opinions and thought patterns of a given period is to sample some of its popular entertainment. Silent film covers topics as diverse (and still current) as immigration (GRETCHEN THE GREENHORN) and abortion (WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN? ). What better way to gain a knowledge of the way our great-grandparents saw their world that by seeing the identical films that they saw, thought about over, and discussed with their friends?
They Stretch Your brain
A silent film makes the person an active participant in the creative process by asking us to fill vital details. What are those characters really saying together? The intertitles only sum it up. What does our heroine’s voice sound like? It’s as sweet as our mind has feelings for you to make it. In these ways, silent pictures engage us in a manner that talkies rarely can.
Additionally, silent films, for their age, often require us to shift our mental equipment a bit, in order to see the world the way that audiences of 85 or a one hundred year ago saw it. I once viewed D. W. Griffith’s THE MOTHERING HEART with a friend who shook his head at the performance of Lillian Gish when confronted with the death of her infant child. I noticed that infant mortality was astronomically higher then and that this film was likely hitting hard for many contemporary viewers. It’s this kind of change in attitude and outlook that can turn something relatively silly into something nearly unique.
They are Great Entertainment
Lastly, silent films can be great entertainment. Obviously, the comedies of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd continue to be popular, and tentpole titles like METROPOLIS and NOSFERATU will always grab attention, but there are countless other films waiting to be discovered by the general public. From the romantic funny of Betty Pickford’s MY BEST GIRL, to the unbelievable western of James Cruze’s THE COVERED TRUCK, there is plenty to discover and revel in. I guarantee that if you give them an opportunity, you’ll find in silent movie theatre a few favorite movies that you never knew existed!