So, about two or three weeks ago a local venue had a marathon of silent movies. Was pretty neat. Three shorts and the original Hunchback of Notre Dame movie.
Silent movies but with live organ accompaniment by a guy who apparently just does live music to silent movies. Not a planned piece, but he basically freestyles it matching the music to what is happening in the movie as it plays. He did a pretty good job in that it was good background music I rarely noticed on a conscious level but enhanced the experience.
The weird bit was that the event wasn’t actually a marathon or anything. The three movies were shown one at a time during the afternoon. One every two hours. Which is really not how I like to do things. Go, see the first ten or twenty minute movie. Leave. Come back in two hours to see the next short. Repeat. I ended up not seeing the third one simply because I was too worn out leaving and coming back. Stop and go experiences are terrible for engagement. For me, certainly. Then the full length movie was shown in the evening. Which I did go see.
The two shorts. saw were pretty funny. One was Buster Keeton and the other was Charlie Chaplin. The first one was about a newly graduated from college guy with a botany degree being hired to modernize a house with the latest and greatest electrical conveniences. That one was interesting in two ways. The first, of course, was seeing a nearly 100 year old movie present a vision of the ever popular ‘house of the future’. Even if it was just in a shallow comedic fashion. The part that got me was there was a chase/action scene near the end. It was only like thirty seconds, I think? But it honestly reminded me of Jackie Chan fight scenes. Two people fighting around moving environment. It really wasn’t that similar but I couldn’t help but think I was looking at a direct distant ancestor of what Jackie Chan does (did? How long since he was in a movie?).
The day after me and my mom saw the black and white silent movie of Hunchback we watched the Disney animated version. Which I found to be an interested contrast. The people who did the Disney version very obviously knew and got some inspiration from the older version. I can’t say how much either of them got from the original book, but there was at least one bit in the big set piece scene at the end that was lifted directly from the older movie.
Another bit was that there was several expressions and bits of body language that I’ve seen used in modern 21st century television shows. So another bit of evidence for the truth that people just don’t change. Not that people feel or react in the identical fashion between then and now, but the ways of portraying people’s behavior in visual form has remained so constant.
On the other hand the differences were just as interesting. The Disney version took out the entire anti-royalty and rebellion aspects. Turning the king of thieves into more of a outside observer and/or Greek chorus instead of an actual involved character. Which meant that the big set piece bit at the end, instead of being the commoners attacking Notre Dome as part of a uprising against the state, it becomes the big bad guy attacking it for his own reasons. So almost a complete reversal of who is involved. Not to mention what class-based conflict there is in the story becomes anti-religious instead of anti-government or anti-nobility. Still, the Disney version is one of the darker animated movies and I do agree with the people that have mentioned it is an unappreciated classic. The visuals were quite stunning.
Plus it has a song where the main villain declares that the female lead has bewitched him and will marry him or be burned alive as a witch. I’m not even summarizing or reading between the lines of the song either. That is what it is blatantly and clearly about.
All and all I enjoyed it as entertainment and as an educational experience. Both in the differences between older and newer versions of the same movie, but just in how storytelling has changed in the last century.