Wednesday, April 24, 2013

'Silent Wagner'

 My friend Prof. G has hipped me to this movie on YouTube. It is from 1913 and it is called "Silent Wagner."

It was a biopic about Richard Wagner that came out in 1913! The movie was supposed to mark the centenary of his birth. As the professor points out, another way in which it was noteworthy was that it could well be the first full-length silent film. Everyone says that D.W. Griffiths' "Birth of a Nation" was the first long silent film but this one predates it by two years. It is 80 minutes long!

At first I thought it was a spoof. I was not watching closely and I was skipping around. And at the beginning they flash that silly quote by Mark Twain: "Wagner's music is really a lot better than it sounds," something like that. So that threw me off.

There are touches that are funny in this movie, I think. One scene in which Wagner is snubbed by Liszt made me laugh. You see Liszt going back to talking to his friends, kind of waving Wagner away.

From what I understand the filmmakers -- Carl Frohlich was the director -- wanted to use actual Wagner music for a soundtrack but the Wagner family wanted to charge too much. They engaged and Italian composer, Giuseppe Becce, and Becce happened to look like Wagner so wound up starring as him. I think Wagner would have gotten a kick out of that.

I am going to watch the whole movie and pronounce upon it. As the Prof. says, it is interesting in that it was made in an era when a lot of people still remembered Wagner and the world that Wagner knew. It gets points for authenticity because of that.

We must discuss. Meanwhile, watching the movie, I confess it is strange.

It is so silent!

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