Yes yes, we are going to talk about The Artist today, and by that I mean I will talk to you about The Artist, and by that I mean I will type something up quickly and terribly and you will read it and like it.
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS ARE AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT CRUCIAL MOMENTS OF THE FILM RUINED FOR YOU
So The Artist was the film of 2011. It won all of the prizes, won all of the fans, and stole all of our hearts. A lot of people think it’s because it was a silent film and that this is a gimmick. At first, I would completely shoot down this suggestion, but after a few discussions with various individuals, I got to thinking: Why are gimmicks seen as bad? Because most gimmicks are used to make loads of money, not to wrack our minds. So yeah, maybe The Artist was a gimmick, but I see it as a good gimmick. I mean, most of us that liked the film went to see it because it was a silent film, right? It did its job with attracting us. However, unlike most gimmicks that rely just on their novelty and are paper thin in every other aspect, The Artist truly was a fantastic film. Could it have been nearly as good without the silence? Most probably not. The film “speaks” (hah) about the change in films back in the day and it does so with exactly how films evolved.
There is so much brilliance inside of the film that ties in with the silent theme. The fact that George Valentin stares at the words “The End” near the start of the film and begins to experience a downfall starting from that very moment is enough for me to be sold. In relation to more obvious examples, his sound nightmare, and the discussion with the cop that doesn’t get a title card (leaving us in the dark along with George) are some of the best moments in any film I have seen in a very long time. Bottom line, The Artist was meant to be silent. Its message begged for it to be, its symbolism in relation to it strengthened the passion of the film, and it helped create the atmosphere even more.
Now the idea I’ve heard being tossed around is that there will be many silent films now. I guess to many this seems like a possibility. I mean, look at what Avatar did with 3D films. You can’t sneeze without it being shot in 3D and released in IMAX theaters anymore. The use of 3D was a gimmick, and technically so was the silence in The Artist. So why do I think Avatar’s gimmick carried on and The Artist’s wouldn’t follow in its footsteps?
1. 3D is much more of a business decision than an artistic one
Maybe James Cameron had an artistic vision behind making the world of Pandora pop out at us. Seems like it, anyways. Yes he spent millions making the film and he made billions in return, but Avatar was made to be a 3D movie. Many films being released in 3D are not. Drive Angry? Not meant to be in 3D. Alice in Wonderland? Not meant to be in 3D. All of those films being rereleased in theaters now in 3D? Definitely not meant to be that way. These filmmakers saw how much money Cameron and friends got from his film, and they’re seeing dollar signs through their red and blue glasses. Would silent films achieve the same benefits? Absolutely not. So many people were skeptical about The Artist because it was silent. Avatar was pretty much a shoe-in. You heard it was 3D, you said “shit yeah, I’m seeing it”. If Avatar wasn’t in 3D and it was silent instead, do you think it would have sold nearly as much money (well, maybe since we don’t have to hear Sam Worthington’s shoddy accent). The silence and lack of talking was clearly not a marketing strategy, especially since it was a project that was rejected by many companies as it was too risky. Enough said.
2. The silence was necessary to strengthen the film
As I said before, it pretty much had to be silent. If a film like this had talking, it would have fallen a bit short. Well, okay, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good. Sure the acting’s great and the music, which you’d notice less, is fantastic. The problem is the film strives on its silence. As I said before, many parts in the film visually intertwine with the lack of dialogue and the script threads with what you see and what you do not hear. It’s a brilliant combination and it was meant to be that way. Would Avatar work without 3D? Actually it did. It was released in regular theaters. The 3D was seen as just a bonus, I guess. Was the lack of talking a bonus then?
3. It’s far too risky
Again, how many films can you imagine being silent? Films in the classic era of Hollywood worked without dialogue because, well, they had no choice for the most part. Also filmmaking was far more different back then. A lot was said through expressions and visual emotions to make up for the lack of audial connectivity. Now, we’ve gotten used to relying on the crack in ones voice or the volume of ones yell to gauge what emotion one is feeling. It’s a surprise that everyone in The Artist performed so well, really. Dujardin deserved his oscar and countless other awards because he not only pulled you in, he did so with a huge handicap that many actors are not used to. Many companies turned down this film because it seemed like a disaster from the start. Seeing as it’s a rare film where this concept would actually work, would I be surprised if other filmmakers gave it a shot? Not really. I also wouldn’t be surprised when their efforts crash and burn (and unlike 3D films, the money for overpriced glasses wouldn’t save them). Also, was George’s downfall with his film in the movie not enough of a warning sign? Oh, speaking of which
4. Because The Artist uses a gimmick to talk about the decline of gimmicks
Exactly what I said. Was Hazanavicius speaking about Cameron? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the fact that the film starts off with the gimmick it’s promoting and ends with not only a change of heart but also the death of the gimmick in the exact same film is enough of a statement I think. George speaking his final line should have been enough of a symbol, don’t you think? Gimmicks that catch on end. It’s not like this is the first time 3D films have been around. They’ve been tried and have failed many many times before. They just seem to be sticking around for longer than usual now. Yeah, we have the technology to try and perfect this concept, but until then many of us get dizzy, sick, and bored of 3D.
Those are my reasons why I think silent films won’t have a comeback. The artist, as a title, is singular for a reason. Silence is indeed golden, but nothing gold can stay.
What do you think?