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15 July 2011

Silent Movies -The Silent Era

Here's a little passion of mine. Silent Movies. I don't know exactly the reason why I like them so much. I think they are fascinating. Anything that belongs to the past for me is fascinating. I became interested in silent movies when at school, during German class we had to watch Nosferatu, a 1922 silent movie. But what is exactly a silent movie?

A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards. The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as film itself, but because of the technical challenges involved, synchronized dialogue was only made practical in the late 1920s with the perfection of the audion amplifier tube and the introduction of the Vitaphone system. After the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, "talkies" became more and more commonplace. Within a decade, popular production of silent films had ceased.

Showings of silent films almost always featured live music, starting with the pianist at the first public projection of movies by the Lumière Brothers on December 28, 1895 in Paris. From the beginning, music was recognized as essential, contributing to the atmosphere and giving the audience vital emotional cues. (Musicians sometimes played on film sets during shooting for similar reasons.) Small town and neighborhood movie theatres usually had a pianist. Beginning in the mid-1910s, large city theaters tended to have organists or ensembles of musicians. Massive theater organs were designed to fill a gap between a simple piano soloist and a larger orchestra. Theatre organs had a wide range of special effects; theatrical organs such as the famous "Mighty Wurlitzer" could simulate some orchestral sounds along with a number of percussion effects such as bass drums and cymbals and sound effects ranging from galloping horses to rolling thunder.

Silent film actors emphasized body language and facial expression so that the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and portraying on screen.


(Lilian Gish, famous actress of silent films)


 The silent film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; also known as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror or simply Nosferatu) which I told you about before is a German Expressionist horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok").

Here is the full film:





It appears that I'm not the only one so fascinated by this old films.  There are silent movies festival, shows and exhibits around the world.
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