Arts preview: Silence really is golden (at least on Hitchcock’s silver screen)

By Sarah Thompson
From the October 10, 2013 edition

It’s hard to imagine watching Tippi Hedren haul ass to break away from birds on a flesh bender without hearing the deafening sound of countless wings. Same goes for watching Janet Leigh’s famous shower scene without hearing that curdled scream.

In fact, it’s hard to imagine any of Hitchcock’s works, classics or no, without the ear candy. But if The Hitchcock 9, Wex’s month-long homage to the director’s nine silent films, teaches us anything, it’s that silence doesn’t kill the suspense.

“There’s fascinating tech tricks and devices (in the movies),” said David Filipi, Wex’s director of film and video. “Like in ‘Lodger,’ when people are downstairs in the boarding house, there’s a point when they can ‘hear’ footsteps above them. But the audience couldn’t hear that, so he used a glass floor (to show it).”

Supporting the scares in each showing are local musicians performing their own scores (spoiler alert: silent films weren’t truly silent) in place of the films’ original soundtracks. Splitting the nine musical accompaniments among them are Columbus talents Derek DiCenzo, Larry Marotta and Sue Harshe, each providing their own personal musical touch to their features.

Keep your eyes on call, too. If you pay close attention, you can catch early moldings of the themes used in his later classics, like “Rear Window” and “Vertigo” (not-so-spoiler alert: Come on, we aren't giving those juicy deets away). 

The Hitchcock 9 is an opportunity that truly is can’t-miss: The product of one of the largest film restoration projects, it’s likely your only chance to see all of these lesser-known films together, operating at their best.

And don’t let the “lesser-known” fool you, Filipi said.

“There’s no doubt he’s the most famous director who’s ever lived. Everyone’s seen ‘Vertigo,’ ‘Rear Window,’” he said. “But ‘Blackmail’ is considered the best British silent film ever made. So don’t mistake unknown for lack of entertainment.”