Shape Of Love NOW – This week in movie-making

+ Logging footage taken on a shoot at a farm on Saturday 

+ Meeting with an industry expert (in the subject of love and its most famous celebration, the wedding) to discuss her role in the film

+ Researching possible interview candidates in Kennebec County

PHOTO and QUICK PONDER of the Week:  Silent Movies Roaring Emotion

I was looking at how love is expressed in silent movies this week. I was studying a well-known one, in particular, directed by F.W. Murnau called Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Ironically it came out in the sunset of silent movies in 1927; the year that new technology enabled audio and visual to marry and live happily ever after and the first “talkies” were born.

Before that technology, silent movie makers made the most of what they had to work with to convey story; most notedly, their very expressive actors and actresses. There’s a love triangle in the beginning of Sunrise which makes its subtitle A Song of Two Humans an interesting choice, but the story and “The Woman from the City” (played by Margaret Livingston) soon give way for “The Man” (George O’Brien) and “The Wife” (Janet Gaynor) to explore the state of their love and marriage. 

But not before this very famous scene from the movie: https://youtu.be/5YiTQwqRufs

…when The Man, tempted and tormented, sneaks off with The Woman from the City on a foggy night. The scene is loaded with the kind of drama and emotion that makes silent movies special: what feels like exaggerated movements and exaggerated moments, with melodramatic looks and longing, is language without words.

The clip in the YouTube video also demonstrates other tools and techniques the filmmakers used to convey emotion and plot. There is an effective “intertitle” that expresses a dubious suggestion from the City seducer, “Couldn’t she get drowned?” Additionally, the film’s use of superimposed images to create dreamlike scenes was innovative and breakthrough for the time. 

1927 was an exciting year of change for the motion picture industry, and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans was in the middle of it. The very first Academy Awards were held to honor achievements and Murnau’s film was nominated for four and won three. It won for “Best Unique and Artistic Picture” (there was also a category called Best Outstanding Picture that year), “Best Cinematography,” and Janet Gaynor won the Academy Award for Best Actress, (although she earned it for her work in three silent films, not just for her Sunrise performance). 

While movie studios continued to make silent films for another few years, it wasn’t long before studios and theaters across the country had invested in sound stages or sound systems and talking motion pictures became the standard.

It’s amazing what the early movie makers and their casts and crews accomplished in black and white, with no sound. Also amazing to me is that several were made right here in the State of Maine between 1919-1921, including a love story, of sorts. (Its romance was flavored with comedic elements from the Maine woods and was called, Cupid, Registered Guide).

Do you have a favorite silent movie?