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Film Appreciation: Episode Two: The Silent Era Part 2

Alright let’s do a quick recap, so in episode one: the silent era part 1, we established what film appreciation is and why we appreciate film. We also started with the silent film era and two of its four main film movement.


In episode two we’ll do the remaining two movements within the silent era.

The French Avant-Garde (1918 – 1930)
This consisted of two film movements (French Impressionism and French Surrealism), here experimental French filmmakers explored cinema as a purely visual medium and they constructed films that had symbolism, non-narrative dreamscapes. Most used symbolism to externalize their characters psychology and emotions.

The Impressionist filmmaker explored film as art, their films emphasized their characters emotional and psychological state which drove their narrative. They were interested in giving psychological depth to their films. Impressionist films were more about internal action rather than external.

Napoleon (1927) directed Abel Gance is considered to be a landmark within the Impressionism movement.


The other movement with The French Avant-Garde is French Surrealism, this movement was basically countering whatever was coming out of Hollywood at the time, and the surrealist filmmakers despised the impressionist films because the impressionist operated within the commercial system whereas they were against it.

Surrealism filmmakers crafted films that gave dreamlike experiences that were considered to be exploring the hidden depths unconscious human behaviour. The movement made films that shocked and sometimes awed audiences, they were anti-narrative and avoided logic or any rationalizing. They were influenced by Freudian psychology and symbolism.

Here a few filmmakers and their films to watch to get a better understanding of the French Avant-Garde movement within the silent era:

L’Age d’or (1930) directed by Luis Bunuel, Le Etoile de Me (1928) directed Man Ray, La Roue (1922) directed by Abel Gance.

The Soviet Montage (1924 – 1930)

The Soviet Montage was a movement that relied heavily on the editing of the film. The filmmakers here saw editing as the foundation of the film and so they were using the shot and not the scene as the primary language and meaning.

The films combined shots in editing to create a symbolic meaning, they downplayed the psychology of the character and focused more on the social aspects. The Soviet Montage films tended to have multiple protagonists. They used real people who looked the part to play the characters instead of profession actors.

This movement had a major impact on cinema, they gave us the Kuleshove effect and demonstrated the power and impact of editing.

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

Mother 1905 (1924) directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Enthusiasm (1931) directed by Dziga Vertov.

That’s it for The Silent Era that I can speak on (lol), in the next episode we’ll be tackling the transition to sound.

cinema movies Film Op-ed Film appreciation series

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