In 2011 director, Michel Hazanavicius, decided to make a tribute to early cinema. The Artist was his vision to express a love for the silent film era. The story is based around a silent film star who was struck down from his pedestal. He refused to move forward into the “talkie” film style. In true movie fashion there is a underlining love story. The characters move around each other lives all the while never really connecting. The director brings out the very best in the actors, score, and set. You are drawn in even if like me, you absolutely cannot stand silent films.
The beginning of the film has no dialog, and a musical score that sets the emotion for the scene. Most music is playful and lighthearted as to match the personality of the lead, Valentin. The actor gives an outstanding performance to relay this carefree likeable man. As the story unfolds the music matches seamlessly with the darkness in which the film has taken. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks, but I never truly understood the power they hold until there is no dialog to move you to the emotion of the character.
I applaud the director and the composer for such a moving experience. I did a little research in order to under stand how the cinematographer decided to shoot this film. His camera angles seemed true to the silent film style. His use of lenses, film speed, and ratio gives an authentic look. I was a little disappointed to learn they shot in color and then went to the editing room. However, as a photographer I never shoot in black and white unless I am using film. I understood the process, but I have to wonder how it would have looked if they would have gone with the film.
There is a powerful scene in the movie that shows just how much, Valentin, actually fears the sound. A nightmare of profound importance to the lead, that starts off simple enough. Just the setting down of a glass emits a sound that seems to have never been heard. More and more sounds start to overwhelm the, Valentin, until he is clutching his ears in agony. This is the only common sounds in the movie until the very end when hear the actor finally speak. The nightmare itself was such a powerful seen as we realize that it isn’t pride that the actor has, but more so fear.
Fear of change or fear of the future; perhaps fear of loosing his thrown. Although things are made clear later on that scene makes me feel confused and invested in seeing the film though with my full attention. I could not really find any information about the gaffer, which made feel as though no one realized the lighting, was flawless. The set up of every scene gave the same feel of the silent era lack of lighting style. I am certain the gaffer kept to old Hollywood lights, which no doubt was hard to come by.
I believe the lighting crew should always be acknowledged, simply because it is a true art. I greatly enjoyed the fact the actors where somewhat unknown (at least to me). Although John Goodman is a wonderful actor, his presence took away from the authenticity. Had I not seen his face I could have completely been engulfed in this story line and time era. Star power always draws a crowd, but to stay true to the art and use all not so well known actors would have given the film more depth. It was very powerful how each character had a distinct roll that revolved around the lead.
The loyal butler, the love interest that also was the main demise of, Valetin, even the dog had a full-fledged roll. The depth in which, Hazanavicius took each character seem to round out the film. Each actor seemed to put their all into the scenes making the film truly moving. I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of acting style that was used. The use of the entire body and facial expression to relay the content of the scene, which is usually done with dialog, was flawless. Peppy (the love interest) had a deep caring for Valentin, and it showed in such subtle ways.
The actress took a great deal of effort to show the progression of a crush to a full-blown love. It is no surprise to me that this movie won so many awards. Overall, this movie has truly given me a respect, and even love for a film style that my generation has never embraced. I am a true fan of movies, and I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of films. I am ashamed to have never known that this film existed. It has opened my eyes to an entire genre of movies that I will embrace. I am excited to take a new journey down an old and somewhat forgot road.