Recently I spent 155 minutes watching an old silent film at the Seattle International Film Festival. I LOVED every minute.
The film tells the story of a thief, Ahmed (played by Douglas Fairbanks) who falls in love with a princess (Julanne Johnston). In order to win the hand of her in marriage, royal suitors are challenged to “find the rarest of treasures”. Ahmed, disguised as a prince goes through a series of mystical trials to find his treasure and in the process saves princess and the whole kingdom from the evil Prince of the Mongols.
This 1924 film was directed by Raoul Walsh and art directed by William Cameron Menzies. In the screening we watched, Orson Wells introduces the film and talks about the amazing scenery, costumes and effects created for this film. Flying carpets, flying horses, fiery caves and a fantastic underwater world required film makers to invent special effect techniques to create this magical film.
Recently I saw a preview of a 3-D documentary film by Werner Herzog, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It’s an amazing and powerful film and I suggest seeing the film when it comes out in theaters.
In 1994, a French scientist, Jean-Marie Chauvet discovered the Chauvet caves. In these caves full of sparkling stalactites and remnants of animal bones, beautiful paintings of cave bears, lions, horses, rhinos, bison and mammoths were found on the walls. These breathtaking animals were painted with fluid lines, shadowing, and some images even capture the movement of the animals. Carbon dating shows that the paintings were done over a period of at least 5,000 years. The first of the paintings were created at least 32,000 years ago — the oldest cave art known to science.
Towards the end of the film, one of the main scientists says that although there is no way to know why these paintings were created, it is obvious that these artists were trying to communicate a message and to immortalize a memory.