Lego goes silent

As we continue our trawls through YouTube looking for imaginative and legitimate (or at least arguably so) creations relating to silent cinema, our eyes settle on Lego…

Lego films (or brick films) have become an honourable strand of the animation film, though one whose apparent ease of production has attracted far too many amateurish efforts. Parodies of films and film genres are rife, inevitably, and so it is that there are numerous silent Lego films to be found, or Lego films imitating silents. For the most part they are as bad as one might fear, showing only the most hackneyed ideas about silents, and minimal artistry. But, as ever, among the dross we find a few gems a-glistening. Here’s a selection to amuse and maybe instruct a little.

So let’s start with The Birth of a Nation. One may tremble with trepidation at what such an offering might mean, but what we get is a parody of one of those TV Hollywood history programmes, presented as though a previously lost fragment of interview material, with talking heads reminiscing over the experience making the films. Enjoy the insights offered by editor Rose Smith, director, producer and editor D.W. Griffith (“I wanted to push the length of feature film productions, baby”), cameraman Billy Bitzer, actor Ralph Lewis, and music editor Joe Carl Briel, all boastfully talking up the film’s length, technical innovations and undying contribution to film history. Created by Geoff Reimer and C.J. Reisenbigler.

Most Lego film parodies tackle the obvious. Here holstenwall has shown a little more imagination and given us a Lego interpretation of the Berg or mountain films of Arnold Fanck, in which Leni Riefenstahl first made her mark as an actress. Here we see Berg von Alptraumen, or Mountain of Nightmares (part 1), complete with German intertitles (with English subtitles), as our hero scales the snowy heights amid settings of suitably midget epic grandeur. Sadly, the world still awaits part 2…

There are various Lego versions of scenes from Metropolis to choose from. This is the one to see. Considerably classier in look than the average, it also shows greater imagination than simply mimicking parts of the film. Entitled 45 Seconds of Metropolis, it takes the film’s famous tag line – ‘Der Mittler zwischen Hirn und Händen muss das Herz sein’ – ‘The mediator between head and hands must be the heart’ – and illustrates this through three sections (two really), dedicated to the hands, the head and the heart. A subtle miniaturist’s idea, and a fine title sequence too. It was created by Gordon Bühler, a.k.a TrashGordon (great name).

That’s probably more than enough, but how could I resist any Lego film which chooses to demonstrate to us that Thomas Edison invented the Kinetoscope…

(I’m just keeping things ticking over while I work on grander stuff to present to you when it’s ready. Bear with me.)

2 responses

  1. I just stumbled on this article and could not stop smiling! I’m Geoff Reimer (the guy that made the Birth of a Nation video above). I had all but forgotten about that little project. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes: It was a final project in my Cinema History class in Phoenix, AZ. Our groups were assigned to give a five minute presentation of some kind and we instantly thought of doing a movie. Due to budget and time restraints Lego was our best choice. CJ (listed above) camped out in my living room for four days while we filmed, recorded, and edited it together “low budget style” (car or blanket for a sound booth). During our presentation I told the class that we were digging holes in the back of CJ’s yard (for no good reason) and accidently dug up a old box with a DVD in it that had this on it (since DVD was the preferred media of early 1900s). After the video we gave a short speech about the long term impact of the film, including the racial controversy that rose from it, and landed ourselves a 25/20 for the final project :) This success led to our group sticking together for the rest of our college time. We entered several film competitions and even won a couple. Most of our work can be found on YouTube but it all started with this Lego video :) Thanks for the review and the trip down memory lane!


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