By Helena Smith
So just in time for the new year I managed to watch something I would never usually, a silent film. Prior to deciding I went through my usual process for film finding of asking for recommendations and looking at online reviews. This meant I ended up with Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Light’s’.
Sitting myself down with the remainder of my Christmas chocolate (which I have to admit I thought was going to be the best bit about watching the film) I was intrigued about what the next hour would hold, or the effect it would have on me. Often when doing something considered ‘cultural’ I do find myself jumping ahead, excited for how the experience might change me in some way. This arguably isn’t the way to approach new experiences and obviously, nine times out of ten this realisation doesn’t happen consciously. Though it’s a habit I am trying to get out of I let myself indulge in the thought a little. The possible outcomes that went around my head were that, perhaps from now on I would only want to watch silent films, maybe I would start turning the sound off on films with sound and that maybe I would fall in love with a new actor.
Whilst none of the above happened within the first half hour something usual did happen. The chocolate didn’t get touched and at the time, I really couldn’t think of a better example of how when exposed to something unusual for yourself it really does grab your attention. I was fully amerced. The actions and the sequences of the short scenes were quite literally memorizing.
I’m not sure about what I expected of the level of craft to be, I knew it would be decent to still have some merit after all these years, but I wasn’t sure whether that was because it was just so different to what we are now used to. Though I do think there is an element of this, the direction really is impressive. The smooth ‘accident’s and linking of actions are brilliant and I found myself laughing at simple misfortunes that I don’t think usually I would have. For example, the characters in the scene not realising the bottle of whiskey is being poured down on of their trousers.
And I was quite surprised. Up until this point I had always seen myself as having a slightly different sense of humour that wasn’t so easily tickled. It was proof that when presented with a very stripped back version of a thing it allows you to acknowledge and enjoy the things you may have otherwise been desensitised to. This got me thinking as to whether such subtleties are even considered valuable in the movies today where technology is so advanced, the CGI is often the main show. Or perhaps, they are just there, we just miss them. (Perhaps I will start turning the sound off on some of favourites in the hope of finding some).
Either way having watched City lights it has made me think more about my art direction and how something doesn’t be a show of the latest adobe feature to be impressive. The message can be as strong expressed through the simplest forms of communication. And how I can’t confuse the page with elements that will make the message less clear.
All in all an enjoyable first experience, which I shall be looking to repeat. It also gave me a future passion project idea of creating some of my own short silent films, to really put my story telling to the test.