My dad loved watching Charlie Chaplin films. I didn’t get it. Why would you want to watch a movie where you couldn’t hear them talk. How do you follow? How do you enjoy it? I was known for having a wild imagination as a kid but I don’t think my imagination was vivid enough to follow those silent films. So, I left the room.
Many years later, I decided to take a chance and sit through a Charlie Chaplin film but this time in a different venue. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presented City Lights on stage at Kleinhans featuring the entire orchestra performing the score. To my surprise, it was awesome – so much in fact two of my friends were in tears by the end of the movie. We loved it and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. While we felt the emotions expressed by Charlie and the damsel in distress (there’s always a damsel in distress in silent films but this time she was not attached to a train track). I can’t help feeling that it was the music that put us over the top. Yes, we had to focus on the actors every move, even tried to read lips a couple of times, but in the end the score carried us through the film. The music replaced our need for words. Defying my expectations that this was a bad idea.
Fast forward to 2011, while sitting in the movie theatres desperately waiting for the previews to be over so that I could see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, I stumbled upon yet another silent film, The Artist. At first I wasn’t sure what I was watching. My first reaction was “this is a joke.” But to my surprise, it was a real preview for a real silent film. I was overcome with excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t wait to see it! I couldn’t wait to hear the music. To my great fortune, The Artist was excellent, carried once again, by a wonderful score filled with sounds of the twenties.
You would have to be under a rock to not know that it is movie awards season. You would have to be under an even bigger rock to not have heard the raging reviews The Artist has received. In celebration of the impending Oscars ceremony, Classical 94.5FM WNED has been playing movie music. Classics from the past (I rushed back from my lunch break last week to hear the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) and new favorites (The Artist included). This is my favorite time of the music programming year. It’s great to be able to remember a movie just by hearing a few notes. Even if it’s a movie I hate. So now – silent films I get! But words or no words, without music, what would we have to attach ourselves to after the years pass and the memory of the film and its actors fade away?
What are some of your favorite scores in Oscar-winning films? Feel free to comment below!