Focused On Silence


Geoffrey O’Brien celebrates silent films:

[They] foster a different, prelinguistic mode of apprehension. A peculiar kind of attentiveness results that has something of the intensity of meditation, a wordless and intimate absorption in which the flow goes both ways: the spectator completes the people on the screen, inwardly speaks their words for them rather than listening in. It is always surprising to experience, yet again, the sense of loss when a silent picture ends, the sudden awareness of how intently one has been staring at the people who have now vanished into air.

Erik Loomis adds:

One thing I love about silents, particularly those before 1920, is that no one knew what they were doing. By this I mean that the standards of cinema and the creation of expectations on how to tell a story were still developing. So when turning on an early silent, you never really quite know what you are going to get.