Back in the silent film era, most filmmakers did not have as many resources and technological advancements in today’s film. All they had was their creativity and imagination, which enabled them and other crew members to came up with different ways to shoot virtually impossible scenes. This is one of the reasons why silent films are so important, especially if you are an aspiring filmmaker. These films were the backbone of the film industry, and they created the standards that we know today.
That is why in this article, we are going to list down the reasons why silent films are still crucial up until today.
- Silent films taught us about the narrative economy and storytelling – Back in the silent films era, not all productions had the same luxurious sets and financial resources, which means that back then, most filmmakers had small budgets, which is why their storylines did not have great scale sets or war scenes. Because of the limited budget, silent films taught filmmakers to pick the scenes that were really important to their story. It taught them to be focused on the story they want to convey, even if it means they have to make cliché solutions.
- Silent films were the ones that first used film editing techniques that helped us understand the importance of stillness and movement – Silent movies were responsible for the invention of continuity editing, which has become important to the narrative economy and storytelling. The editing technique often involves the uses of ellipsis, flashback, extradiegetic and diegetic sound, and mark on the action. These principles that were first used during the silent films help gave birth to another cinematic pillar, which is the rhythm. This taught filmmakers when, where, why, and how to use movement.
Back when cameras were still big and bulky, the movement technique was only used on special occasions within the film, such as the climax, a moment of discovery, or a character’s introduction.
- Silent films helped emphasize the use of sound and silence to tell a story – During the silent movie era, music used in film began to grow and set itself on different tones to match different film genres. Back then, as filmmakers started to invest in cinematography, some of them also began to explore the importance of silence and sound in a film. They learned how to use silence in moments following a great climax or when a character discovers the struggles and truth that is in front of them.
- Silent films are the founding fathers of special effects – Years before science fiction became all the rage, legendary filmmaker George Melies was known to be the first one to use and develop special effects when it comes to filmmaking. One of his iconic works was the 1902 film called Trip to the Moon, where he experimented with tricks such as the multiplication of people or sudden disappearances. He was able to achieve this by using jump cuts, animations, and superimpositions. Silent films pioneered and changed the way we look and imagine films. Filmmakers such as George Melies proved that a movie could tell stories with visual tricks even with limited technology.
- Silent films are historical documents, too – Silent films are historical documents of the film industry’s own advances. It is also historically significant because some of the films created during the silent movie era showed society’s problems, values, and behaviors. Silent films gave us a glimpse of how people dress, act, and live back in the days.