The other day I found myself at Best Buy, browsing through the Blu-ray section looking for one of my favorite movies, Metropolis. Even though the 1927 film is widely considered a classic, it was difficult to find because Best Buy doesn’t have a silent film section. They don’t think people care enough to watch early films — and they’re right. There is a stigma attached to silent films. Because they’re black and white and lack dialogue, people believe they’re boring. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Silent cinema is filled with exciting train robberies, sci-fi epics and haunting thrillers. When people choose to ignore these movies, they are eliminating an entire era of film history.
Older films can be difficult to watch. They require patience, close attention to detail in order to grasp the full story and sometimes coffee as a companion. However, that’s a small price to pay for what silent films can offer. Learning to enjoy older films is simply a matter of changing your perspective and understanding that they require more active viewership than the standard blockbuster. Hamlet isn’t considered a light read because Shakespeare’s prose is complex. Putting in effort and understanding the context of his work is part of appreciating it. It’s this effort that makes reading his classics satisfying. The same goes for silent movies, and we have to rise above the No Fear Shakespeare ease of modern films.
What’s more, we’ve all seen old films in some capacity, so the jump to their original source isn’t too daunting. We love Hairspray, the 2007 movie musical starring Zac Efron and Queen Latifah, but many have not seen the 1988 original it’s based on. 12-year-old Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap, a 1998 film, already feels ancient to us but that’s actually a remake of the 1961 version. The same can be said for Twilight. Practically every vampire film convention can be traced back to the 1922 silent classic, Nosferatu. Yes, it’s chilling. No, it’s not missing anything because it doesn’t have a Tarantino-style bloodfest. If silent films were truly outdated with dragging plots, filmmakers wouldn’t using them as inspiration over and over again.
Ultimately, the problem is not with silent cinema but with people. Viewers just need to push past the first 15 minutes. Silent film watching requires a certain mentality, but if we can adopt it, we’re in for a treat no Michael Bay film can provide. As Generation Y and Z members, we deviate from the mainstream culture and pride ourselves in authenticity. For a culture that puts so much emphasis on originality, this generation seems to have missed out on appreciating this creative era in filmmaking.
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