Screening a Silent Masterpiece
by Brittany Nader
The marriage of striking moving images and recorded sound has arguably never been executed quite as elegantly as in the silent film era. Melodramatic facial expressions coupled with expertly directed shadow play and eerie jump cut scenes created an atmosphere that was awash in a brooding romanticism unparalleled on today’s silver screen. In the 1920s, as silent film took hold of the American cultural consciousness, many musicians could count on these movies as their single largest source of employment. In Japan, this film style persisted well into the 1930s, sparking years of intensively creative pursuits by award-winning filmmakers and writers unafraid to use the experience of instrumental sound and theatrics to their benefit.
One such film that emerged from this era was “A Page of Madness,” a visually sinister 1926 picture directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa. The production was rediscovered 45 years after its debut and has since become a treasured underground classic among the avant-garde. Akronites can experience the visceral madness at a one-night-only event happening Nov. 7 at The Nightlight, as more than 20 area musicians lend their original work to complete the film’s score. The crowd-sourced symphony will feature the sounds and talents of musicians like THORLA, Unknown Unknown, G.S. Schray, The Beyonderers and Neon Tetra recreating the film’s original score in each of their unique styles.
Jacob Trombetta, Creative Consultant at The Nightlight, has been tasked with asking local musicians to re-score various silent films for the past four years. He says all films have been affiliated with cinema – formerly Akron Film and Pixel – and an encore presentation of the previously screened silent movie, “Aeltia: Queen of Mars,” will precede “A Page of Madness” at 4 p.m. Nov. 7.
“The artists are given reign to do whatever they want for the score, but almost all of the submissions for past films have been instrumental,” Trombetta says. “Hearing the results of adding the visual constraint of the film to the composition, regardless of the musician’s main genre, is always exciting.”
Most of the contributing musicians, he says, have been writing and submitting original pieces since the inception of the aptly titled “The New Sounds of Silents” series, but this year features a few new faces lending their creative pieces to the aural collage. Each musical act was given a clip of the film running several minutes long, which they wrote and recorded music for prior to the showing of the film. The musicians, he explains, do not play live at the event, which he considers fun as they get to experience their work in public without having to haul in bulky gear like amps and drums.
“They are all working toward a common goal — supporting the film — but they all approach the piece in a unique way,” he says. “There hasn’t been a film score that I haven’t been surprised by. We are surrounded by a lot of talented musicians in Akron.”
As a seasoned musician himself, Tombetta says he approached the majority of the players about contributing their original work to the film because he has interacted with and enjoyed the music each creates as part of their own unique projects. He and The Nightlight crew have a few ideas in mind about next year’s scored silent film, but the final decision and details are under wraps, for now.
“Sounds of Madness,” a haunting one-night-only screening of Kinugasa’s silent masterpiece, will take place at The Nightlight Cinema Nov. 7 at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Experience the collaborative symphony for yourself on 30 N. High St. Tickets are $4.50 and can be purchased online or at the theater.