Film series: Silent Cinema

image from F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU
image: F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU

Silent films are often considered a lost art that vanished with the hallmark of the talking picture. Whether you are an aficionado or a novice film buff, Cornell Cinema’s Silent Cinema series is a great way to experience a select number of films from this important chapter in film history.

While some films were intentionally silent, others were far from it; in some cases, films included original scores which were performed by musicians during the screenings. Cornell Cinema organizes special showings with musical accompaniment in the form of recorded or live musical performances of the original scores, or with live performances of contemporary scores. This year, the bands The Invincible Czars and Montopolis will play live for Cornell’s Silent Cinema series. 

Nosferatu: Cornell Cinema celebrates the 100th anniversary of F.W. Murnau’s film with a special screening in Sage Chapel with a live musical performance by The Invincible Czars. Nosferatu is the original vampire movie; the terrors of the undead are awakened through The Invincible Czars, who incorporate a wide range of instruments including the violin, glockenspiel, organ, and electronic loops. The enthralling live music in the setting of Cornell’s own Gothic Revival structure is bound to give audiences renewed appreciation for this classic horror film from the silent era. 

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans: one of F.W. Murnau later films, made after the success of Nosferatu. Sunrise is a dreamlike visual tale of deception, adultery, murder plots and haunting.  Cornell Cinema presents Sunrise with a musical recording of the film’s original score. Sunrise was released around the time when “talkies” threatened the survival of silent film. The film also marks a great achievement in camera techniques and movement, although the director and his team crawled through the mud and weeds to film the iconic marsh scene, their camera appears to float or “soar” through the mire creating an eerie and unsettling scene. The incorporation of music accentuates the visual impact of the film and marks the technological shift in movie making toward the end of the 1930s.

Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov’s 1929 masterpiece will be screened with a live performance by the Austin based band, Montopolis. The group’s lead composer Justin Sherburn (Okkervil River) composed a contemporary score to rethink the film within the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. The film was originally shot in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa under the rule of Stalin, today these cities are under the bombardment of Russian

Related films

Scene from the film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans


Scene from the film Nosferatu



Scene from the film Man with a Movie Camera

Man with a Movie Camera