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IFFI to screen silent films with live music

Prior to times when films became the leading art form of the modern century, they were conceptualised in their nascent stage as a series of images, which would convey a narrative without any aural sensation.

Primarily speaking, films were conceptualised as a series of visual spectacle. In those days of silent films, in order to heighten the impact of such films, special live music would be performed by either a solo musician or a collective group under the direction of a composer. However, with the advent of sound in films, this feature of the film viewing experience soon faded out.

The golden jubilee edition of the International Film Festival of India will have a specially curated section paying tribute to this lost form of film viewing, with three classics by three master filmmakers showcased for the delegates. The films will be accompanied by a master pianist performing live during the movie.

The films to be screened on November 22, 23, and 24 include ‘Battleship Potemkin’ (1925) by Russian master filmmaker and pioneer of montage editing, Sergei M Eisenstein; ‘Pandora’s Box’ (1929) by German expressionist master, G W Pabst; and ‘Blackmail’ (1929) directed by the British filmmaker known as Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, respectively. The three silent films will be screened with live music performed by BFI UK Pianist, Jonny Best.

“Witness this long forgotten way of enjoying a film as IFFI 2019 takes you back in time,” state the organisers of the annual film fiesta, “The stellar performance to be put up by the pianist is something one can’t afford to give a miss!”

‘Battleship Potemkin’, which sometimes is rendered as ‘Battleship Potyomkin’ is a Soviet silent film produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatised version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against its officers.

‘Pandora’s Box’ is a German silent film based on Frank Wedekind’s two plays, ‘Erdgeist’ or ‘Earth Spirit’ (1895) and ‘Die Büchse der Pandora’ (1904). It stars Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner and Francis Lederer. Brooks portrays a seductive, thoughtless young woman whose raw sexuality and uninhibited nature brings ruin to her as well as those who love her.

‘Blackmail’, a British thriller drama stars Anny Ondra, John Longden, and Cyril Ritchard. Based on the 1928 play of the same name by Charles Bennett, the film is about a London woman blackmailed after killing a man, who tried to rape her. Interestingly, after starting production of ‘Blackmail’ as a silent film, British International Pictures decided to adapt it into a separate sound film. That way, it became the first successful European talkie, with a silent version of this film released for theatres not equipped with the sound system. The sound version of ‘Blackmail’ was also released at the same time.

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