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Film Appreciation: Episode One: The Silent Era Part 1.

Film Appreciation will be a series I’ll be doing where we basically appreciate film (it’s literally in the name lol). This for me will be kinda of like film school revision and hopefully we can learn some new stuff together, before we can do so though we need to know what is film appreciation and why we as cinema lovers do it and why some of us even study film appreciation.

 

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Firstly film appreciation is the analysis and examination of the:

Cinematic aspects of a film, this is the style, values in production which include sound, cinematography, set design just to name a few.

Literary aspects of a film, these are your narrative (plot, story, and character), themes, symbolism, meaning, and subtext. This also includes Form (genre, structure, design).

Dramatic aspect of a film, this is of course the casting, direction and performance.

Why appreciate film?

Well…

To learn and understand the art and language of cinema.

The message (what the film is trying to communicate through the pictures, sounds and dialogue).

The meaning (what the film truly means underneath the surface, do the pictures have some symbolism to them?

Does the message or pictures of the film contain subtext? Is the story a grim warning of what’s to come?)

Okay I hope you understand a bit now so that we can move on to the actual meat of the episode which is The Silent Era of cinema, this era ran from roughly 1913 to 1927. Mind you silent films are still being made even to this day, some even say the silent film is the purest form of cinema because you’re just using your pictures and performances to tell the story.

The silent film era is of course very important and is basically part of the foundations of the cinema we have today. This period in cinema (periods in film history will be discussed later on in the series), had four major film movements which were impactful to cinema and you can still see traces of them even in some of today’s films.

The four film movements found in the silent film are:

The Classical Hollywood Cinema (1908 – 1927)

The German Expressionism (1919 – 1926)

The French Avant-Garde (1918 – 1930)

The Soviet Montage (1924 - 1930)

The Classical Hollywood Cinema (1908 – 1927)

This movement dominated the world during the first world war as the free flow of cinema became restricted, films from other countries such as France and Italy which shared the market with American were very little because of the war and American productions reigned supreme.

Filmmakers and Film companies migrated to Hollywood from about 1909/1910 and the demand became so much that this birthed some of the major film studios we know and love today such as Universal, MGM, Paramount, 20th Century and Warner Bros.

Here a few filmmakers and their films that stood out during this film movement within the silent era:

Buster Keaton.
Keaton made many films during this era but The General (1926) is the only film I’ve seen of his and its great.

Cecil B. De Mille.
If you’re a Golden Globe junkie then you defs know this name, De Millie’s works are legendary, his film The Cheat (1915) is considered to have been an important change in the way which the studios did their films.

And of course we have DW Griffiths who gave us The Birth of a Nation (1915) which is considered to be the great piece of cinema ever made but Griffiths Intolerance (1916), which is a must watch for all cinephiles. The film has many firsts to it's name but we'll get that once we do individual film analysis.

The German Expressionism (1919 – 1926)

Germany had about 2000 theatres which showed mostly foreign films from America, France, Denmark and Italy and they had a small film industry in 1914. The war came and the French and Americans banned German films, the German government decided to support the film industry so that they can make propaganda films and combat competition from the other film countries.

Even after losing the war they continued to produce films although propaganda films died, they still made comedies and dramas. The expressionist explored sexuality and emotional uncertainty by looking inside and examining the psychological effects of their environment.

Here a few filmmakers and their films that stood out during this film movement within the silent era:

Robert Wiene.
His film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is cited to having introduced the twist ending to cinema.

FW Marnau.
His 1922 film Nosferatu is one of my favourite films of all time and here’s a fun fact, the film is an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Bram Stoker’s heirs sued the filmmakers and the courts ordered that the film must be destroyed but thanks to the power of film Jesus, a print survived.

Earnest Lubitsch.
Whose film Madame Dubarry (1919) this film made Earnest the first German director to be employed by Hollywood after this film and others became extremely popular with the Americans.

End of Part 1.

Film movies cinema Op-ed Film appreciation series silent era

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