Silent films weren’t silent. They were actually pretty noisy, and not just during the making! Between 1912 and 1929 over 11,000 so-called ‘silent films’ were produced in the States alone and these were almost universally accompanied by music. As the movie industry took off, so did the business of producing sound and music for the silver screen: publications of music expressly for film proliferated and ‘mood music’ for the action, events and emotions commonly found in film scenarios became ubiquitous. Nowadays, any film without endless dialogue and a built-in soundtrack is a rarity. But a century ago, even the most provincial village showings usually boasted a musician to provide a bit of aural atmosphere. And while this accompaniment was initially drawn from pre-existing vaudeville music libraries and popular songs, it was original compositions which became ever more popular – a fascinating trend which is seeing a revival, courtesy of the Pharos Arts Foundation’s enLIVE 3…
With this event series, the foundation is working with local musicians to replicate the ambiance of early silent films, “enhancing the mood and atmosphere of each silent film, divulging its veiled imageries and deciphering its connotations. enLIVE gives audiences the opportunity to enjoy some of the most emblematic films of the silent era set to original music and performed live in the intimate surroundings of The Shoe Factory in Nicosia,” organisers reveal.
Taking place on January 17 and 19, the event sees the screening of four silent cinematic masterpieces accompanied by live performances of original music. With artistic direction from Alexandros Mouzas, this year’s musicians include The Prima Vista Quartet (based in Paris and led by artistic director and composer Baudime Jam) who are billed as “a leader in the rarefied world of cine-concerts, having been performing their original film scores for nearly twenty years both in France and abroad”; musician, composer, performer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Davies, renowned for creating a special ambience and rhythm for theatre, film and dance; and Andreas Zafiropoulos, a composer and pianist who is currently completing his PhD Dissertation on Music in Silent Films.
The programme opens on January 17 with a screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest known surviving animated feature film, directed by Lotte Reiniger in 1926. One of the great classics of animation – witty, lively, delicate, inventive, stirring and romantic – this enchanting work uses intricate silhouettes made from cut-out cardboard and thin sheets of lead to enact a tale from The Arabian Nights in which a wicked sorcerer tricks the titular protagonist into mounting a flying horse. The succeeding series of wondrous adventures is set against an ever-changing backdrop of vivid colour tinting and ornate scenery, and will be accompanied by Chris Davies on a variety of instruments, including xylophones, bamboo and metal flutes and electronics.
On the same day, director Buster Keaton’s 1926 film The General will be set to music by the Prima Vista Quartet. Considered one of the funniest silent films ever made, this is an epic of comedy which follows the adventures of Southern railroad engineer Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton), facing off against Union soldiers during the American Civil War.
The Quartet are back again on January 19 with Friedrich Murnau’s iconic Nosferatu set to an original score composed by Baudime Jam. One of the most pioneering films in the silent German expressionist movement, Nosferatu is widely considered to be an unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and was the first production in which a vampire’s deathly vulnerability to sunlight was imagined. Almost unique in portraying a vampire who is not darkly attractive, but corpselike and ghastly, the 1922 film was a major contribution to the vampire mythology which is still so popular almost a hundred years on.
Aptly named, Safety Last! is the final screening of the series: a quintessential comedy, best remembered for its hair-raising climax – the iconic image of actor Harold Lloyd dangling from the hand of a giant clock on a 12-storey skyscraper above busy Los Angeles streets. Regarded as one of the most significant American silent films, Safety Last! will be accompanied by the live musical stylings of pianist Andreas Zafiropoulos, bringing to a close what promises to be a real treat for both film buffs and music-lovers.
At The Shoe Factory, Nicosia, at 8.30pm on January 17 and 19. Tickets cost €15 per day (€10 for students, pensioners, soldiers and members of the Pharos Arts Foundation). For more information and bookings, call 22 663871 or visitwww.pharosartsfoundation.org