I went to see The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius’s recent ‘silent’ movie set in Hollywood in the late 20’s when the talkies were starting to make their mark. I’m struck by the similarities between this genre of movie and the kind of material we often ask of children on film projects, where technical constraints mean diegetic sound is often sacrificed in favour of overlayed music or voice over (this latter is perhaps the equivalent of familiar text signposting in silent movies). The success of this movie is testament to the readiness of audiences to risk-take with moving images and break the mould of what constitutes acceptable movie-going experience.
The reason I bring it into the real/fiction arena is because the film has much to say about the effect of sound (as well as celebrity, identity, technological advance). Without giving too much away, there’s a point where the music stops and real sound crashes into the movie – clattering objects on a table, doors closing, people talking etc and the silent movie star finds it intolerable to hear. It really made me appreciate that it is the veracity of the audio just as much as the visual that marks ‘real’ interruptions into fiction. There’s nothing really earth-shattering about this realisation but it’s the fact of it being so physically impressed on the audience rather than rationally assumed that makes it such a valuable moment of reflection. Interestingly real silence is used at the film’s climax. Here’s the trailor: