The sound (and images) of beautiful silence

All cinema enthusiasts better mark their calendars. The Silent Film Festival in Thailand is returning for the fourth time next week in Bangkok. The event — organised by the Film Archive, the Goethe-Institut Thailand and the Japan Foundation — opens at Scala theatre on June 8, with all subsequent showings happening at Lido theatre until June 14.

The Silent Film Festival in Thailand photo courtesy of The Silent Film Festival in Thailand

Feast your eyes on this year’s selection of celluloids, which opens on June 8 at 7.30pm with the newly restored Der Müde Tod (Destiny), a 1921 German expressionist fantasy romance directed by Austrian-German filmmaker Fritz Lang which follows a woman desperate to reunite with her dead lover. The film will be accompanied by Neil Brand, a British silent film accompanist with over 30 years of experience. He will be performing throughout the festival, and will also be hosting a QA session on June 10 at 2.30pm.

Other musicians that will be performing as accompanists are Christopher Janwong McKiggan and Gandhi Wasuvitchayagit.

One of the highlights of the festival is the performance of benshi — performers who narrate for silent films with both flair and theatrics that have become a culture of their own in Japanese theatres. The performance originated in the early 1900s in Japan, and has contributed greatly to the scene and history of silent films in the country. Several benshi are still active today in Japan.

The festival will be welcoming a popular modern-day benshi Ichiro Kataoka, who will be lending his narratives with a piano accompaniment by Ayumi Kamiya. As with Brand, Kataoka will be available for talks on June 11 at 2.30pm. Audiences can experience this rare treat during the screenings of the silent shorts Our Pet and Chushingura, plus the American feature The Freshman, the 1925 comedy starring legendary American comedian Harold Lloyd.

Other cinematic gems that will screen at the festival include The Mask Of Zorro (1920), the swashbuckling tale that follows the adventure of Don Diego Vega in his fight for the poor and attempts at courting the beautiful Lolita Pulido in Spanish California. The film has two screening sessions, one on June 9 at 8.15pm and the other on June 11 at noon.

On June 12 at 8.15pm and June 14 at 6.15pm, witness the tale inspired by German legends in Faust, the 1926 tragedy that tells the tale of a man who made bargains with the devil to help village people and later to regain his youth.


The 4th Silent Film Festival in Thailand runs from June 8-14. Tickets cost 120 baht for each film and go on sale from tomorrow. All screenings come with Thai and English intertitles. For full schedule, visit www.facebook.com/silentfilmthailand.