Art/Culture

Silence is Golden

This month we encourage you to take a break from the eardrum shaking, Dolby Digital “talkies” to enjoy the more subtle beauty of classic silent films.

June 04, 2017
Bangkok cineastes, rejoice! Thanks to the Thai Film Archive, Bangkok will be able to enjoy the full experience of watching silent films this summer. From June 8-14, in cooperation with Goethe-Institut Thailand and the Japan Foundation, the 4th Silent Film Festival will be held right in the heart of Bangkok’s Siam Square.
Neil Brand

What is particularly notable about the festival is that the films, screening at Scala Theatre and Lido Multiplex, are not really “silent” at all; the musical accompaniment for each of the films is going to be performed en direct by various silent film accompanists, including Ayumi Kamiya, Christopher Janwong McKiggan, Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit, and Neil Brand—frequent visitors to London's National Film Theatre and classic British film fans will know that Neil Brand has been composing and performing narrative music for cinema for nearly 20 years.

Ichiro Kataoka, Benshi - Courtesy of Harvard Film Archive
In addition to classic silent gems and live musical accompaniment, a highlight of the festival is the traditional Japanese performance art of benshi narration. ‘Benshi’ or ‘film-explainers’ are Japanese silent film narrators who provide live narration to silent films. Bangkokians will have the rare opportunity to see this unique performance art along with three films of the festival: Chushingura (1928), Our Pet (1924) and The Freshman (1925).
Destiny by Fritz Lang
Another anticipated highlight is the opening film: Destiny by Fritz Lang. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of German UEFA film studio, Destiny will be screened on June 8th at the art-deco Scala Theatre. If watching a film from “the master of darkness’ on the big screen, with the soundtrack played live by Neil Brand, does not seal the deal, consider that this version of Destiny is also newly restored, making it the most completed version of the film to date.
The Mark of Zorro

Apart from the German expressionist masterpiece, another shining gem of the festival is the debut appearance of the swashbuckling hero who headlines The Mark of Zorro (1920), screening two times at Lido Multiplex on June 9th and 11th.

From Lang’s recent restoration, a rare opportunity to experience benchi, and live music performed by Neil Brand all happening right in the heart of Bangkok, this opportunity is absolutely not to be missed. The 120 baht tickets are available at Scala Theatre and Lido Multiplex ticket offices from June 1-14. I’m going to get mine this evening, and so should you!

All the information about the 4th Silent Film Festival can be found here.