The Silent Choice
I read an interesting article in Wired about a resurgence-- well, let's call it a renewed interest in niche, arty circles-- in silent cinema.
The article is compelling on its own merits, as it describes the way that the Adelaide Film Festival in Australia is trying to recreate the experience of watching silent cinema, replete with an orchestra.
I think that's a great idea and sounds like a fun evening out. But to me, what prevents us from fully recreating the experience of watching silent cinema is the element of choice. When people initially watched a Chaplin film, they weren't marveling at his decision to forego sound. That's just the way things were. But, for us, when we watch a silent film with an orchestra, we are confronted by the absence of something-- sound-- and we can never remove the fact that we chose to watch a movie without sound, instead of the countless others that have it.
I'm not sure what the point of this is, other than to elucidate the difficulty of trying to experience something-- the Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis, FDR's fireside chats-- from another era in the way that it was meant to be experienced. Sure, we can recreate the details, but not the experience itself.