Young reviewer, Yael-Louise Dekel, attends a screening of 1923 film Salomé on Friday 8 November at Turner Sims.
On Friday the 8th November I went to see the screening of the 1923 silent film Salomé. I had never seen a silent film before so this was a completely new experience for me.
The film was shown on a giant screen and either side of the screen were two towers that looked like scaffolding where real musicians played to accompany the silent film. The hall’s seats were almost completely full which showed the event’s popularity.
The film itself was an interesting thing to watch. At first I found it slightly confusing watching it because the characters in the film would speak (move their mouths) but you wouldn’t be able to hear what they were saying. And then, a few seconds later, on the screen would come slides with text of what they were saying. When I got used to it, it was fine to watch.
I liked how the story was presented in black and white and how the actors moved – like dancers. Since you can’t hear what they are saying the way silent film actors show emotion is through strong expressive moments – with their body, their faces, and their eyes. Almost like a physical theatre performance where we see the characters emotions through the way they move – when scared they ‘shrink’ their whole body inwards, and when angry they walk forwards fluidly and confidently.
When we watch films we take everything that goes into it for granted – the cuts, the transitions, special effects, costumes, props… etc… so when you watch a silent film from the 1920s you start to compare and appreciate the aspects you see in modern films, and it is interesting to see how they produced the old film when they didn’t have the technology we have today.
The expressions and the director’s choices in the film were interesting. An example is when the character of Salomé was furious and the director showed this with a close-up shot on her eyes and blacking out the rest of the scene so the only thing you could see were her eyes.
Salomé, as told in a 1920’s style, was something I would normally not watch. The actors in the film and the way they moved on the ‘stage’ to tell the story was unique. The actual story itself wasn’t as complex as stories in films nowadays but the way it was told was something out of the ordinary. How different races and gender were portrayed in the film was also something interesting to watch and to compare to representations in modern films. I would challenge some of the old representations, but when watching the film we have to remember the context in which it was made. However, overall I found the film really interesting and I learnt a lot about the history of film-making by watching it.
The accompanied music played by four musicians on the stage was also fascinating. The four players, each in their own scaffolding constructions, created a background of modern music that worked with the old 1920’s images. The key point of a silent film is the music and without the music, the film wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it was. On the scaffolding structure there were lights, a bit like a concert that changed colour as the film played. This added to the film as the colours would change according to what was happening in the film – like red light when Salomé was angry… I found the lights to be a nice touch.
If you want to learn something new or just want to experience something out of the ordinary then you should go see Salomé (if they show it again), or watch some of the other silent films Turner Sims showing this season. If I ever get the chance to watch another silent movie I would definitely do it.
10 Oct 2019