Without words – silent films and the International Silent Film Festival in Bonn
Since the new French silent film The Artist won so many international prizes last year, there has been much talk about the fascination of the early silent films. But has the success of this five-fold Oscar winner and homage to the 'pre-talkies' era really prompted a new interest in our cinema heritage? Sigrid Limprecht, head of the International Silent Film Festival in Bonn, gives us her opinion.
'What really fascinates people today about silent films is the way they manage to tell a story without using spoken words or dialogue, and yet still grip and move the audience just as successfully as films with a soundtrack do. That surprises audiences and wins their admiration, especially in today's world, of course, where people everywhere are chattering non-stop, and where we face a constant flood of stimuli.' Limprecht compares this with the fascination we feel at a dance performance, compared with a spoken stage play.
However, she believes that what's important is who actually watches silent films today, and in what contexts. 'If people get to see silent films shown in the proper way, with live musical accompaniment as they always used to be shown, they usually do react very enthusiastically.' The real problem is that there aren't enough opportunities for introducing a broader public to the early silent films, and thus to a significant part of their cinema heritage, 'because a lot of the film material doesn't exist anymore, and what there is first needs to be restored and made available.'
[Translate to englisch:] The Artist - Trailer
Discussion in the community
Do you like watching silent films? Perhaps you've also been to a silent film festival before, where the films were accompanied by live music? And do you know any silent films from your own country? Tell us about your silent film experiences in the Alumniportal Community, in the KULTUR – CULTURE group.
Passing on the cinema heritage
In Limprecht's opinion, if we are to pass on our cinema heritage, this restoration process is essential. 'In this respect, digitisation has an important role to play – much more so than the hype surrounding a single film – because it's digitisation that's driving our capacity to pass on the heritage. Within the film industry,' she explains, 'digitisation is a democratising process and one that works at an international level, because many countries now find it easier to afford the cost of restoring old and damaged film material.' And the fact that it takes 15 years to restore a single silent film should also change soon. That's how long it took them in Bolivia to produce Wara Wara, the first ever Bolivian silent film, which was shown at the 2011 International Silent Film Festival in Bonn.
The 34th International Silent Film Festival in Bonn
If you like the idea of watching silent films accompanied by live music in the open air on a warm summer evening, then you should come to Bonn in August! At the 34th International Silent Film Festival, to be held in the central courtyard of the University of Bonn, from 16 to 26 August 2018, the Förderverein Filmkultur Bonn (Bonn society for the promotion of film culture) and the Munich Film Museum will once again be showing film classics, newly restored films, and rarities from around the world.
In 2011 the festival attracted 24,000 international visitors who watched silent films from Bolivia, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the USA and other countries. They often waited for hours before the films started, in order to keep their seats – which are free for all screenings! At this very moment, the organisers are working flat out to prepare the film programme. You'll find it online soon at the film society's website.
Link into the Community