The golden silence of film

  • 2005-11-02
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - The root of modern cinema, with its captivating gloss and special effects, rests in silent film. A simple, universal art in which actors are never handicapped by language or accents, silent film requires little more than condensed title cards and disjointed images. And what a beauty it is to watch.

The Silent Film Festival Tylos Garsai, showing in Forum Cinema Vingis, offers moviegoers a rare and entertaining look at the medium's pioneers, and yet something more.

As the lights dim and the screen fills with film from the '20s, the evening turns into more than just "a night at the movies." Live music accompanies all the films screened at the festival. The soundtrack ranges from solo piano performances to jazz and pop improvisations.

The success of last year's Tylos Garsai showed that silent films continue to attract audiences for several reasons. One attraction is simple: the subtle power of silence. The lack of sound creates a special intimacy that often surprises modern moviegoers. Silent films also force audiences to stay focused -- you have to pay close attention, or you'll miss something. And finally, the festival's unforgettable soundtracks - or more precisely, its stunning live concerts - will wrap up the entire experience.

The Silent Film Festival has been expanded to three days this year, Nov. 4-6, and the opening show is sure to be the highlight; "The Dog of Andalusia" (1929) by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel.

Both authors perform in the film themselves. This masterpiece of surrealism was meant to astound audiences in the '20s and it still does very well 80 years later. As for music, "The Dog of Andalusia" can find no better instrumental accompaniment than Pieno Lazeriai, the Lithuanian version of De-Phazz.

There are several sides to silent film, and one of them is puppetry. Few know that the founder of puppet animation, Laslas Starewitch, grew up in Kaunas. Often compared to Walt Disney in the 1920s and '30s, Starewitch's art passed into oblivion as cinema techniques advanced.

In his 50-year career, this prolific director produced almost 100 films. Several times he endeavored to combine actors and puppets in the same picture, but generally the performers were children who complimented Starewitch's fantastic world of animals and insects.

Starewitch made every one of his marionettes himself, and was his own scenic designer as well as cameraman. We can only admire the artist's perseverance 's he had to modify the position of his marionettes 24 times in order to obtain just one second of film.

Although Starewitch didn't manage to outweigh the father of Mickey in terms of popularity, he deserves a world of credit for inspiring a new scene in cinematic history. This year Tylos garsai will screen two films by Starewitch: "Revenge of Cameraman" and "The Insects' Christmas."

Many other films by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and Scandinavian classics by August Blom are 'musts' at Tylos Garsai. There are many films to pick from, so take your chance. And bring grannie along - it won't be too different from going to the movies in the 1920s.