Scene but not Heard: Hitchcock’s silent movies come to Moscow

A frame from the movie "Blackmail" (1929). Source: British Film Institute

Early August promises to be very silent but intense in Moscow. At the Strelka Institute’s yard from August 1-9, nine silent movies shot by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1920s will be shown for the first time in Russia. The presentations will be accompanied by live music from leading British composers.

The festival is a great chance to see silent films not only for Russians but also for foreign visitors. “Hitchcock’s silent films have been shown in London only once and periodically in other countries with the help of the British Council,” says Maria Nikanorova, the Council’s marketing and communications director. The festival programme is adapted for foreigners, like all events at Stelka, adds Maria Birukova, the curator of Strelka’s summer programme.

“The silent movies of Hitchcock are just the beginning of his creative journey as a director, his ‘learning period’,” says Andrei Andreev, a film historian and research associate of the Russian Institute for the History of the Arts, which is a partner of the festival.

“However that is when Hitchcock developed those cinematic ideas that he will develop in his sound masterpieces. All his later works include high cultural knowledge of cinematic language, which he learned to use in the epoch when that language was still developing. Probably, like no other director who went through the school of the “Silent Greats”, Hitchcock remained loyal to the end to the principle he adopted in the 1920s: the screen story has to be seen, not heard by a viewer.”

The recovery of nine silent films by Hitchcock is the biggest recovery project for British Film Institute (BFI), and was made possible thanks to the appearance of new digital technologies. The recovery process included work with negatives of early copies of the director’s work, kept in the national archive of the BFI, and work with international archives.

Through comparative analysis of every scene, photochemical work was carried out, followed by frame-by-frame digital image recovery. When the task was completed, the silent films were restored with a clear image, which contributed to better understanding of Hitchcock’s masterpieces.

Besides film screening, festival guests can take a part at educational program with Russian and British experts connected with Hitchcock’s creations, silent movies and work with archive materials, and series of parties will be held.

Hitchcock: Nine unknown (Silent films 1926-1929)       

The Pleasure Garden (March 1926)

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (September 1926)

Downhill (May 1927)

Easy Virtue (August 1927)

The Ring (September 1927)

The Farmer's Wife (March 1928)

Champagne (August 1928)

The Manxman (January 1929)

Blackmail (August 1929)

The film “The Mountain Eagle” (May 1926) is the 10th silent film of Hitchcock is still lost and leads the list of missing works. British Film Institute holds the search.

Material was made with help of British Council, Strelka Institute and Films school of McGuffin as Partners of the festival.

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