Friday, April 29, 2011
The King's Intertitles
I'm a bit of grouch about all this William and Kate business--partly because of my latent republican streak (in the Commonwealth, not U.S.-political, sense of the word). Partly, too, because I didn't know what a 'fascinator' was until today. And partly, I think, because all this talk of Kate Middleton the commoner makes it sound like she was working at some deli when the Prince picked her up. I'm a commoner too, and I ascend to a less exhalted throne, though I try to do so regularly.
But enough griping. This blog's all about silent film and its continued relevance as an artform, and once again, a link to modernity has been found. You may have seen this link already, since it's been zipping through the Twitter stream (I'm @SilentVolume, btw): footage of future-King George VI and future-The Queen Mother's nuptials, and very nice footage at that.
I'm not going to analyze this material, but I will call your attention to one thing. Note that we only see one establishing shot of the interior of Westminster Abbey, with the groom and bride reciting vows, before cutting to this intertitle: "Married." That's it.
Now, the BBC was apparently barred from recording the proceedings for radio, so it's not as though there was no public interest in hearing the vows. (Which is also not to imply, if The King's Speech is accurate, that Bertie wanted his voice on tape that day). Cameras, on the other hand, were allowed in the Abbey, at least briefly. What's the result?
In a silent film, it's often not the words said, so much as the act of saying, and the significance of why they're said, that counts. 'Saying' is itself a message--an act sometimes rendered symbolic, even ritualistic, in silent films, and one that can make those doing the talking seem archetypal and symbolic themselves. That's the effect I get here. What do you think?