Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Written Review: Way Down East

Way Down East was one of the better silent films I’ve seen. From the much simpler story to the absolutely stunning ice flow chase scene, this was a film that I actually enjoyed watching.
One of the things that I loved about Way Down East was the orchestrated score. This relatively small change helped me to enjoy the film infinitely more than other silent films which relied on absolutely horrible sounding midi based soundtracks.
Also, unlike Intolerance, which tried to tell about four separate stories in the space of its over three hours of run time, Way Down East focused on a single storyline. This helped to focus my attention on the story at hand. When I watched Intolerance I was often very confused when the film would jump between the four narratives. It would take me about a minutes or two to reorient myself and remember the who’s and what’s of whichever storyline Intolerance was telling (this was especially difficult considering many of Intolerance’s storylines, dress, and settings were very similar). Way Down East did away with multiple narrative storytelling and decided to just tell one main story which had several well done subplots.
The acting in Way Down East, while still not cinematically perfect, was a vast improvement over most silent American films. Actors were able to convey emotion with more subtle body language as opposed to flailing their arms around as if they were a tumble weed being blown around in the wind. Many of the actors and actresses were able to convey so much raw emotion just with their faces. The scene where the female leads first love tells her that he will not marry her was a heartbreaking scene.
Of course, I can’t talk about Way Down East’s accomplishments without talking about the ice flow chase scene. I don’t like throwing the term “epic” around but this scene was truly epic. Not even the stunning visuals of Avatar were able to make me interact with what was happening on-screen like this chase sequence. Seeing actors actually put their lives in legitimate danger was a pretty impressive feat compared with the sterile and safe environments we have now-a-days.
I would say that I did enjoy Way Down East. I doubt I’ll ever willingly watch the film again but I am very glad I watched this well made and significant film.

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