The Silent Film Festival returns to Bangkok with 11 original titles from all over the globe
Eleven silent films from around the world come to Bangkok this week as the popular Silent Film Festival returns to Scala Theatre to kick off its fifth edition.
Running from Thursday through May 31, the cinematic menu features such major silent movie stars as Buster Keaton and China’s Ruang Lingyu.
Organised by the Film Archive with the collaboration of Goethe-Institut Thailand, the festival opens Thursday night with the French film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” accompanied by Maud Nelissen on piano.
Directed by Dane Carl Theodor Dreye, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is considered one of the greatest films of all time for its groundbreaking techniques and direction, as well as the superb performance by Renee Falconetti.
A re-telling of the story of Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake on May 30 and declared a martyr in 1456 by Pope Callixtus III, the film was edited into various versions. However, the print being screened here is Dreyer’s original 1928 version that was finally found in 1981, and digitally restored in 2015.
Following the opening, the festival moves to Lido Multiplex.
Other films hail from German, Mexico, France, the Netherlands, Russia and China. The German expressionist movie “Journey into the Night” by FW Murnao is one of his earliest surviving films. The filmmaker is recognised as a pioneer for his innovative cinematography and editing techniques, including the incorporation of stage play conventions and the use of insert shots to heighten dramatic tension. The film tells the story of Eigil, a middle-aged doctor who leaves his fiancee for Lily, a charming cabaret performer. The new couple sets up a love nest in a countryside villa, where their love is tested by the appearance of a mysterious blind painter.
"The Devious Path"
“The Devious Path” is a family drama directed by Weimar-era master director, GW Pabst and is notable for having created a memorable female character with the performance of Brigitte Helm. “The Devious Path” tells the story of a woman whose affluent lawyer husband neglects her in favour of work. She soon embarks on a new romance with another man. Their marriage winds up in court when the husband submits a claim for divorce.
Mexican film “The Grey Automobile” was originally produced as a 12-chapter serial in 1919, but was later edited into a series of different versions. The most common of these versions is a two-hour cut. Here again, viewers will be lucky enough to see the longer version that runs more than 200 minutes, and is by far closest to the original in terms of content and film tinting. Restored by the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico, it tells the story of a police inspector who tries to follow a scandalous criminal gang and is based on actual events involving a gang that terrorised Mexico City in 1915. The producer brought in the actual detective who apprehended the gang to play himself and real gang members also appeared in some scenes.
“Dutch Types” is the film from France and is a prime example of an early colour film hand-painting technique known as colour stencilling. This short documentary takes the viewer to Zeeland, a province made up of a series of small islands, to catch a glimpse of local life in the 1910s, including people in traditional costume, the architecture, canals, harbours, and iconic Dutch windmills. Meanwhile “The Secret of Delft” (“Het geheim van Delft”) from The Netherlands shows striking tinting techniques.
“The House on Trubnaya” (“Dom na Trubnoy”) is praised as one of the greatest Soviet silent films of all time for its outstanding cinematic and editing techniques. “Trubnaya” is a satirical comedy that subtly reflects social issues in Soviet-era through the story of a young woman, Parasha, who comes to Moscow to try her luck. She works as a maid to make ends meet but is ruthlessly exploited by her employers. Soon after, she is invited to join the worker’s union, and is later unexpectedly elected to the Moscow city council.
“The Goddess” is hailed as the greatest Chinese silent film ever made. The film stars Ruan Lingyu, the actress often referred to as China’s Greta Garbo and tells the story of a woman who becomes a prostitute in order to pay her son’s tuition fees after her husband commits suicide.
Three American silent films will showcase the world’s great masters of that era including “Foolish Wives”, which was proclaimed the “first million-dollar movie” to come out of Hollywood. This masterpiece was directed by and starred Erich von Stroheim.
Also showing is “45 Minutes from Hollywood”, the first movie in which Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy appeared together under the direction of Hal Roach, a renowned producer of the silent film era. Even though they were not the main characters and did not share any scenes in this film, they were paired up by Roach the following year, and soon rose to fame together as the world’s greatest comedy double-act.
“Sherlock Jr” is a 1924 film directed by and starring Buster Keaton, otherwise known by his trademark nickname, “The Great Stone Face”. It focuses on a movie projectionist who daydreams of being a great detective. One day, he falls asleep and actually daydreams himself into the movie he is showing.
The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand will have two professional accompanists – Maud Nelissen and Richard Siedhoff – performing live for all 11 films. The pair will also be the guest speakers at the “Talk with Musicians” event on Friday.
They will also host a workshop for interested pianists at the Sri Salaya Cinema of the Film Archive at Buddha Monthon Sai 5. The workshop will be held over two days, with each session independent of the other.
On May 29, the trainer is Siedhoffm the new-generation pianist from Germany and on May 30 , Dutch national Nelissen takes over. The workshop, which is in English, runs from 1 to 5 on both days and is free.
What’s on when
Scala Theatre, Siam Square
Thursday, May 24
>> 7.30pm “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (France / 1928 / 96 min)
Lido Theatre, Siam Square
Friday, May 25
>> 6.30pm “Dutch Types” (France / 1915 / 4 min)*
>> “The Secret of Delft” (Netherlands / 1917 / 65 min)*
>> 8pm “Journey into the Night” (Germany / 1921 / 81 min)**
Saturday, May 26
>> Noon “45 Minutes from Hollywood” (US / 1926 / 22 min)**
>> “Sherlock Jr” (US / 1924 / 45 min)**
>> 2.30pm “The House on Trubnaya” (Soviet Union / 1928 / 84 min)*
>> 5pm Talk with Musicians
>> 7pm “The Devious Path” (Germany / 1928 / 98 min)**
Sunday, May 27
>> Noon “Foolish Wives” (US / 1922 / 101 min)*
2.30pm “Dutch Types’” (France / 1915 / 4 min) *
>> ‘The Secret of Delft’ (Netherlands / 1917 / 65 min)*
5pm “The Grey Automobile” (Mexico / 1919 / 223 min)**
Monday, May 28
>> 6.30pm “The Goddess” (China / 1934 / 78 min)*
>> 8pm “The Devious Path” (Germany / 1928 / 98 min)**
Tuesday, May 29
>> 6.30pm “The House on Trubnaya” (Soviet Union / 1928 / 84 min)*
>> 8pm “Journey into the Night” (Germany / 1921 / 81 min)**
Wednesday, May 30
>> 6.30pm “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (France / 1928 / 96 min)**
>> 8.15pm “The Goddess” (China / 1934 / 78 min)*
Thursday, May 31
>> 6.30pm “Foolish Wives” (US / 1922 / 101 min)*
>> 8.30pm “45 Minutes from Hollywood” (US / 1926 / 22 min)**
“Sherlock Jr” (US / 1924 / 45 min)**
*Accompanied by Maud Nelissen
** Accompanied by Richard Siedhoff
- Tickets for the screenings cost Bt120 with the exception of “The Grey Automobile” when they go up to Bt200.
- All films have Thai and English intertitles
- Pianists wanting to attend the workshop should apply before Friday at https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSeE5nNOXkder4Nx_E…/viewform.
- For more information, check out Facebook.com/The Silent Film Festival in Thailand