The Lost Art of Silent Movies


I was watching the trailer for Disney's upcoming new movie The Sorcerer's Apprentice starring Nicolas Cage, and I started thinking about the original Mickey Mouse short cartoon from the classic Fantasia (which apparently was the inspiration for the expanded storyline).  The cartoon had no dialogue and still managed to convey a great story full of drama, humor, and excitement. 

As a fan of silent movies, I miss the era of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, when movies could tell stories without any spoken words at all. 

As an aspiring stage and screen writer, I love writing dialogue, but I often fall into the trap of overwriting.  As a film student, I had to make silent films, and those were some of the more entertaining projects that I've worked on.  Telling a story with believable characters, with real human emotions, but without any spoken words, was a challenge.  Yet in the end, making silent films was a very satisfying achievement.

I wish more modern film makers would focus on visual storytelling tools, beyond just slapstick pratfalls and explosive action.  The sound of silence sometimes is much more powerful and profound than the earsplitting Dolby Surround Sound that we hear in most theaters and home television systems.

Pixar has been able to use silent storytelling techniques to great effect in some of its award-winning short animated films and even in its feature-length motion pictures, like the box-office hit and critically acclaimed Wall*E.

I think if Charlie Chaplin were still alive, he'd still make some incredible movies today with dialogue only when absolutely necessary.  If only more movie makers could do so.

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