My father was born at the very end of the silent movie era, and so I grew up watching silent movie stars like Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. As movie-making becomes ever more sophisticated, I still think there is a place for their early counterparts, unsophisticated as they may be. Here are several reasons why I love silent movies.
Techniques may have developed enormously in the last hundred years, but silent movies never date. Just look at how popular Chaplin, Lloyd and Buster Keaton still are. Will any of today’s ‘stars’ still be known a century from now?
Anyone can watch a silent movie and understand it, no matter where they are from. There is no language barrier, and if you don’t understand the minimal subtitles it doesn’t matter, as the plot and events are made clear from the visuals. Nor is there any need for subtitles in twenty languages.
For me, silent movies are a very personal reminder of my late father. As I mentioned above, he introduced me to this genre. Even though talkies began forty years before I was born, I learnt to love the silent film, perhaps because it is simple to follow and suitable for any ages.
Obviously there are some dramatic silents, but the majority are comedies. And what’s wrong with a good laugh - it’s something we all need! Silent movies are generally silly, slapstick humour – and as I say, there’s nothing wrong with that. Simple, undemanding laughs are what the silent has to offer.
I have a variety of tastes when it comes to more modern movies; sometimes I will see something more sophisticated, but often I just want to be entertained. Silents are great when you’re in that kind of mood – they’re just good fun. Some are more memorable – watch Chaplin’s ‘The Kid’ and it will stay with you – but others are just simple entertainment.
If you’re not in the mood for a comedy, there are also many silent dramas. ‘Pandora’s Box’ is rightly famous, as is the first vampire movie, ‘Nosferatu’. Check out either of these and see what a dramatic impact the silent movie can make.
One thing that you notice with silents is how much can be conveyed with the power of the expression. That is something that many of today’s botoxed actors can no longer achieve! By contrast, see how much a true actor like Chaplin can get across with just a look or a movement of his eyes.
On the whole, silent movies can’t really be categorised as subtle. In fact, they are usually wonderfully over the top! Much of the fun in watching them comes from the stereotypical villains, incompetent authorities, and loveable rogues.
I hope that, if you are not really familiar with silent movies, I have encouraged you to check some out. They really are great entertainment. Just because we’ve had talkies for eighty years doesn’t mean that the silent version are obsolete. Give them a go – there are plenty to discover!
Top Photo Credit: Far0_RC1
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