Early Cinema And The Silent Film

To look at today's synchronised talkies, almost 100 years since their integrated inception, it may well be unimaginable to consider silent film ever existed. But it did, for almost a century. Although there were different ways of managing audio and replacing wording on screen, the main period of the silent 'movie' is from 1894 to 1920.

The most recent silent film to be made was The Artist (2011) which received rave reviews, not least because these so called silent era films are supposedly not wanted or required viewing by today's public. Quite the contrary, the film was a hit globally. However each time they are re-released or re-imagined, such as a version of The Metropolis which was first released in 1927. They are a resounding success at the box office or on television. Indeed still today, silent film and black and white films are still prevalent on the BBC and channel 4 in the UK.

Though it is often difficult to turn back the clock and return to something so idyllic. Could today's cinematic viewers turn their their ear away from loud explosions to see a stylised intertitle declaring 'bang' or 'crash.' You would think not. Even silent movies were interlaced with music, not that many remain. A study just last year revealed that it is believed over 70% of American silent movies have been lost forever with the remainder being of second and third copies and poor quality.

Could people sit down and watch one hundred year old film? Story telling is as old as anything we have passed between generations. As long as the story is funny or captivating, many films from the late 1800s would be spectacles to watch today. The films of today benefit from the ability to score music to story line. Classical music is used to great effect to create audio that matches the film's action. Acting between the two genres was also remarkably different.

In silent films speech or at least mouth movements were more accentuated and it could be said actions and physical movements were more elaborated and emphasised so the audience could understand the story line better. While many silent films were indeed played in complete silence. Live entertainment was used to some form of accompaniment. Therefore some theatres and cinemas decided to have live musics throughout the film, a narrator or actors dubbing the voices.

Although talkies wouldn't go live until the 1920s, populations had been used to the idea of music and speech alongside films before the integrated audio was enabled.