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The quiet revolution of silent film

6th March 2012 Print

The recent hype around multi-academy award winning film The Artist has prompted a revival of the silent age of cinema with rental figures of the genre increasing by up to 40 per cent in the seven days leading up to this year’s Oscars.

Statistics released by LOVEFiLM – Europe’s largest subscription service instantly streaming films and TV series over the internet and sending DVDs and games by post – show that viewing of the 66 films within its Silent Cinema collection increased in the aftermath of The Artist’s success at every major award ceremony, with as much as a 300 per cent increase on some individual titles.

The increases suggest that silent cinema is set to enjoy a comeback. The ten movies within LOVEFiLM’s collection that enjoyed the highest growth, included four starring Buster Keaton – one of the greatest silent movie actor-directors of all time – who was best known for his trademark was physical comedy with a deadpan expression.

The ten silent movies to experience the biggest increase in rentals were:
1. Neighbours (300%) – a slapstick love story about two young lovers separated only by a garden fence

2. The Playhouse (300%) – a film made famous for its opening scene in which Keaton plays the role of everyone in a theatre simultaneously

3. Our Hospitality (300%) – 1923 costume-period piece Our Hospitality which tells the story of Willie McKay, a man caught in the middle of a family feud when he falls for the daughter of the head of the opposing family

4. Go West (200%) – Keaton plays a man called Friendless who travels West to make his fortune

5. A Fool There Was (200%) – tells the story of a married diplomat who falls hopelessly under the spell of a predatory woman

6. 7th Heaven (200%) – the tale of a prostitute and a street cleaner falling in love in the shadow of World War 1

7. Our Gang (125%) – previously considered a ‘lost film’, no longer known to exist in any studio archive

8. Phantom Carriage (100%) – about an eerie ‘collector of souls’

9. Son of the Sheikh (100%) – a tale of love and betrayal set in Yemen

10. City Girl (100%) – which follows the story of a woman who follows her husband to a wheat farm only to be suspected of adultery
Helen Cowley, Editor of LOVEFiLM, comments: “It is great to see the silent era of film getting a boost from the success of The Artist and it is clear that film fans are looking to old classics for modern entertainment. What’s really interesting is how the subject matter of many of these films is still just as relevant to a modern audience, which is what makes them so timeless. There are a great many silent movie gems available and it is heartening to see this genre enjoying a revival.
“LOVEFiLM has a huge catalogue of films to watch instantly on a range of platforms for as little as £4.99 per month with an entire collection dedicated to silent cinema.”