Saturday, September 4, 2010

Silent Films: It's Personal

Watching a silent film is an intensely personal experience. No matter how many people are with you in the theater (if you are lucky enough to see one in a theater), you are truly alone in the dark. You are alone with your thoughts, your dreams, the (imagined) sound of a voice, the throb of your heart. The right music casts an even larger spell and you are carried away on an internal magic carpet ride. Norma Desmond was only half right when she said they had the eyes of the whole wide world. The marriage of film and silence created a portal to a pure and primitive place in the viewer's consciousness.

The unspoken longing, the secret desire, the private passion, these belong to the owner in their most perfect form. Once spoken and shared they cannot be altered. The internal has found a voice and the spell is broken.The silent film enlists the viewer in a very intimate partnership. Each viewer's interpretation of the images on the screen is slightly different, colored by each individual's inner landscape.The personal ideal of love, beauty, humor and heartbreak is added.  One gives life to the other.  No one's experience can be exactly the same.If sound films are prose (beautiful, passionate, exquisite, hilarious prose), then silents are poetry.

The language of silent film is not our native tongue anymore. If you ended up living in a country where the language was not the one you grew up learning and speaking, most likely, no matter how expert you become, it will always feel slightly foreign. You might even think first in your native language and speak in your adopted one. And so, watching a silent film today requires a bit of adjustment. As viewers, we are not used to being asked to fill in the blanks. Silents requires you to strip yourself of all self-consciousness and delve into your inner realm. 

I invite you to spend 10 minutes or so with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in "Flesh and the Devil." Click on the gray right-pointing arrow and turn up your speakers to listen to the gorgeous music of Carl Davis. There are no words......


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9 comments:

Zavado said...

An interesting post. I was wondering what role you thought that music plays in the silent film experience?

MAGYWILL said...

It's great to read your thoughts on some of the known and lesser known stars. I'll check in regularly.

FlickChick said...

You are an angel. Thanks.

FlickChick said...

I hope to be able to explore music in silent films soon. It's funny that silents were not really silent.

Edna's Place said...

Still wish there was a real time machine, and could go back to one of these silent film theatres just to feel the real experience before all the talking pictures began.

FlickChick said...

Thank goodness so many are preserved and that there are still people who take an interest. They really are a glimpse into a world long gone.

chilibean0 said...

Love this, How romantic. An era of romance, elegance that has passed. Thanks for sharing.

FlickChick said...

Glad you are enjoying. I'll keep writing if you keep reading!

Anonymous said...

wow that was great... how romantic! Greta Garbo is gorgeous