This an interesting development. Shown last week at the Edinburgh Festival and this week at London’s Rich Mix arts centre was Mother India – 21st Century Remix, or MI21. DJ Tigerstyle has taken the classic 1957 Indian film Mother India, directed by Mehboob Khan, and reimagined it as a 45-minute silent film. Tigerstyle (“world champion scratch DJ”) is joined by Matt Constantine on keyboards and cello, David Shaw on drums and Josh Ford on visuals. The promo above includes some clips of the performance, alongside interviews, audience reaction and so forth. The film’s website describes it thus:
Presenting the film to a contemporary audience, whilst preserving the power and vitality of the original piece is the key to this work. At 45 minutes in length, MI21 will engage you through the music to understand how dynamic a story the film has to tell.
Setting aside the qualms some may feel at seeing a cinema classic being deconstructed in this way (with the implication that a contemporary audience wouldn’t be able to sit through the original), it is a triumph of some sort for the art of the silent film, reclaiming a sound film through its images as one of its own. What other sound films have been reconstituted as silents? I know of one other recent example, the group British Sea Power adding a music soundtrack to an edited-down version of Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran (1934), which once had a perfectly serviceable soundtrack of its own:
Interesting that some of the chat about this video has suggested that Flaherty’s film was a silent film originally (its sounds and dialogue may have been post-synched, but there was very much sound there all the same). It seems to be part of a similar urge for the poetics of the silent film. Maybe the sound dies for some films, eventually, but the images live on. Something to ponder, and a trend to look out for.
Meanwhile, Mother India – 21st Century Remix can be experienced at the following venues:
* Sat 05 Sept – Brighton Pavillion Theatre – 01273 709709
* Tue 22 Sept – Bristol Colston Hall – 0117 922 3686
* Sat 10 Oct – Coventry Belgrade Theatre – 024 7655 3055
* Sat 24 Oct – Bridlington Musicport Festival – 0845 3732760