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 should they? After all, they’re in non colored documents (usually); the acting’s a little more intense than we’re used to (sometimes); and, for moaping out loud, you have to read them!
I don’t really expect anyone else to love silent films. It’s true that, in the 21st century, they can seem a bit mid-foot ( arch ) Silencil, noncitizen and archaic. But here are some of the reasons why I love them and why I think that everyone should take the time to spin different options silent picture on occasion…
It’s a Whole World of Movies That we Never Knew Existed
Imagine that there’s a secret movie consisting of thousands of movies from every variety that exist just below the horizon where few people think to look. That’s silent movie. Once you’re in the know, the selection range of film is bigger, 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 occasionally 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 greatly visual medium. Direction, cinematography and performance are all focused purely upon what is visible to the eye. Celebrities had only their gestures and facial expressions to stir up a character and tell a story. They had no recourse to dialogue. This is why so much of the acting of the period seems overwrought to today’s viewers. Once you learn to appreciate silent performance, however, you will start to spot current celebrities and actresses 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. An attempt pans from a western outlaw to the woman she has locked up — and then follows her sightline to the firearm on the table. Such a device is, of course, perhaps the basic grammar of film, but the lack of dialogue throws cinematographic technique into bold relief. We really commence to notice and to appreciate how the camera alone can tell a story.
After you’ve internalized the purely visual style of silent film, you’ll realize their great economy. What requires two or three pages of dialogue in a talkie is often disclosed in a silent picture by a single shot.
They are a Window Into Another Time
If you’ve ever wished-for for a time machine (and who hasn’t? ), silent films may be as close as you are likely to get to owning one. A movie shot on location, like a lot of Harold Lloyd’s SPEEDY, allows 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. A good way to gain a comprehending of the general opinions and attitudes 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 comprehending of the way our great-grandparents saw their world that by seeing the very same films that they saw, thought about over, and discussed with their friends?
They Stretch Mind
A silent film makes the viewers an active participant in the creative process by asking us to fill in 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 cares to make it. In these ways, silent pictures engage us in a way that talkies rarely can.
Additionally, silent films, because of their age, often require us to shift our mental equipment a bit, to try to see the world the way that audiences of ninety days or a hundred years ago saw it. I once saw 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 pointed out that infant mortality was astronomically higher then and that this film was likely hitting hard for many contemporary viewers. It’s such a change in attitude and outlook that can turn something secured in a dark silly into something nearly profound.
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 Mary Pickford’s MY BEST GIRL, to the ambitious western of James Cruze’s THE COVERED WAGON, there is plenty to discover and enjoy. I guarantee that if you give them a possibility, you’ll find in silent movie a few favorite movies that you never knew existed!