Silent is the name of an independently-financed feature film three years in the making which premiered in November 2008, and which is currently doing the rounds of festivals. Were it up to me, it would gain an award for its plot idea alone. Its subject is a world such as we understand in silent cinema, where everyone is silent. Into this world comes Abigaile Archibald, who discovers she can communicate in a completely different way to anyone else – she develops a speaking voice. She is delighted at being able to talk and sing, but the suspicious townspeople are horrified by this freak of nature and launch a witch hunt…
This ingenious concept you can see in action through the trailer, in which everyone inhabits a silent film world except for the vocal Abigaile, who sings of her woes in the mournful “Will I ever be heard?”. The look of the film (shot in black-and-white), which the director describes as a ‘gothic comedy’, takes its cue from Nosferatu but also the Universal horror films of the 1930s. It was shot in New Jersey, which has a noteworthy history of filmmaking itself, starting from Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studio at West Orange way back in 1893. Fort Lee was a popular area for outdoor filmmaking in the 1910s, and companies such as World, Eclair and Solax had studios there. The filmmakers are keen to reference this history, even if their own efforts take their inspiration from later, and elsewhere.
The film is written and directed by Michael Pleckaitis for Revscope Pictures, and stars Katie Ritz (as Abigaile), Dan Bailey and Sam Sebastian. Silent has a website with background information on the film, photographs, production news and a blog. They have also produced a serial of sorts, documenting the film’s production, all episodes of which you can follow on the website or via the film’s website – or you can just follow the links here (Chapter 1 seems only to be available on the film’s website):
- Chapter 2 – Deconstructing a villain
- Chapter 3 – Making a silent film
- Chapter 4 – Red carpet premiere
- Chapter 5 – Katie Ritz
- Chapter 6 – Dan Bailey
And for your special delight, here’s the music video for “Will I ever be heard?” (which bears more than a passing ambition towards the work of Andrew Lloyd-Webber):
The film has been around for a year now, but despite the filmmakers’ online efforts, it doesn’t seem to have gathered all that much attention. It is hard to see why, given the quality of the trailer (though some of the supporting information in the production serial is a tad underwhelming). For ingenuity of concept alone it deserves a wider audience, and let’s hope that the Bioscope’s noble readership can do its bit to spread the word. A DVD release is promised in due course – I’m looking forward to it.