Silent Pictures Go Loud

  • 2011-02-16
  • By Laurence Boyce

SPEAK UP: Silent film classics will be accompanied by live music at the film festival.

TALLINN - Cinema has always been an art form in which technological change has been of crucial importance. The move from black and white to color. The ever improving and increasingly realistic special effects. The current craze for movies in 3D. However, it could be argued that the biggest development in film history was the introduction of sound during the 1920s. Whilst film was (and always will be) a primarily visual medium, the fact that you could now hear the actors talking and add lavish soundtracks changed the course of films forever.

Yet, even before the technological advances swept through the industry, film had enjoyed a unique and fruitful relationship with music. It’s easy to forget that – despite their name – silent films were never played in silence. Pianist and musicians would fill the theaters to accompany the movies and provide the audiences with aural delight to go along with their visual pleasure. Indeed, Dmitry Shostakovich began his career improvising live accompaniment to silent films (and was once sacked from a cinema for laughing too hard at a comedy). “Silent Movies Go Loud” to be held in different cinema and concert venues during February and March - harks back to the time when live music and film were woven together whilst adding a definite contemporary twist.

Five classics of the silent era will be provided with live scores from five contemporary musical artists who represent a wide range of musical styles and genres. Amongst them will be “Argento Tango Fusion” from Spain, “Dead Combo” from Portugal (whose sound echoes many of the classic Spaghetti Western films of the 1960s), American rapper and beat boxer Napoleon Maddox who will be teaming up with the Estonian Jazz clarinet player Meelis Vind and the Estonian band OAK. There unique and diverse sounds will be inspired by such films as “Man with a Movie Camera,” Dziga Vertov’s classic slice of Russian cinema, the Estonian film “Young Eagles” and the German film “Berlin: Symphony of a Great City,” which will be receiving its first ever screening in the country. There’ll also be a contemporary silent film as Esteban Sapir’s quite brilliant and wildly inventive “La Antena” will also be screened. Perhaps the highlight of the festival will be the performance of Konono No 1 – a Congolese band who are described as ‘ethnofuturistic’ – will be on hand at the Russian Cultural Center to accompany the German movie “Tabu,” directed by FW Murnau, one of the greats of German cinema.

All these events will show just how blurred the boundaries between music and image can be. It will also demonstrate how the experience of film can be so much more than sitting in a cinema and watching images flash past your eyes. There can be room for improvisation and new ideas that constantly manage to reinvent the medium of both movies and music for audiences of all tastes. And, of course, it also speaks to the global language of art as different cultures come together to interpret ideas and meanings in new and exciting ways.

Certainly, it would be disappointing for anyone to dismiss the festival as an excuse to show a bunch of old movies. By placing some classic films amongst brand new settings “Silent Movies Go Loud” gives audiences an opportunity to see (and hear) history and culture in a brand new way. And let’s not forget that there will be the opportunity to have enormous fun on the way.
“Silent Movies Go Loud” takes place in Estonia from Feb. 19 to March 5 in Kumu Auditorium, Artis Cinema and the Russian Culture Center.

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