By Stefan Martin
Stefan Martin is the Staff Assistant to Artistic Programs at ArtsEmerson, and an Emerson senior majoring in theater studies with a concentration in acting. He will be supporting artistic programming initiatives, acting as line producer on several developing projects, and sharing his thoughts with you on upcoming work here on our blog!
Films are a great way to appreciate something as a group, and so my new roommates and I decided to have a screening, as one of them owned a projector. I brought up the idea of seeing The New Babylon, a silent Russian film made in 1929 that has the flavor of a political-period piece. I wanted to get familiar with it as it’s coming to ArtsEmerson on September 14th. Each roommate is a visual artist, so it wasn’t a great stretch of interest for them (though it might have been next door, at a BU fraternity house).
With no resistance from my roommates, we watched the film streamed through YouTube, accompanied by the Magic Lantern Show Orchestra in the background. What a delight it was. Each image iconic in nature, as if you were seeing black and white photography for the first time. And, put into a cultural-historical context, the film was hilarious, mostly by the absurdity of the characters and how hard they partied back then. The timing was excellent and it was quite bewildering how the director managed to orchestrate the huge cast of characters and still maintain such elegant authentic attitudes between each one.
The whole event made me think about the use of film and its archive, the irreplaceable portal into the bombastic legacy of the past, noticing all its quirks and cultural changes. There is, of course, a certain tenacity required in viewing these films, as they are not driven by the immediate gratification of man like today’s movies. But you would be surprised by the intuition and amount of fun people had in 1929!