By Smaranda Mihăilă
Overwhelmed by having just come back to the Netherlands and having to move again, as an international student does from time to time, silent films from the 1920s accompanied by classical piano and violin music were just what I was missing. You might find a note of sarcasm in those words, but I assure you, there is none.
I was invited – and gladly accepted – to attend two of the programs at the 7th edition of the Nederlands Silent Film Festival, and I was immediately hooked. Only by looking online at the program of the festival, struggling to handpick the two screenings I will be attending out of a plethora of silent comedies and dramas (and a special yoga class with classical music??), I could tell I would have no regrets when making the trip to Eindhoven.
As soon as I entered the auditorium, it was as if I stepped into the olden era of the 1920s. In front of the auditorium, a big cinema screen. On the left side of the stage, two musicians with their piano and violin, talking to each other and laughing about what I can only imagine to be the latest gossip heard at a champagne party with the hottest figures of the silent film industry. After the director of the festival politely thanked the audience and musicians for their presence and announced the upcoming screening, the lights went dark and the auditorium of the Silent Film Festival was surrounded by playful and cheerful piano sounds. For the upcoming 70 minutes, I got to forget about everything my overly anxious mind was contemplating and be part of the ‘catch the crooks and rescue the station owner’s daughter’ narrative of El Tren Fantasma – one of the few silent Mexican films that has been preserved – accompanied by silent film pianist José Maria Serralde Ruiz.
The perks of working for a student-run journal allowed me to go into the ‘backstage work area’ of the organizing team and make my entrance into the cinema through a ‘staff only’ secret door. No, not impressive, just a tiny and cramped room from which I could tell that the few people who make up the team of the festival have been working non-stop for days to offer the public this experience. What was of interest in the room however was the talk I got to have with Evelien, former Media and Culture Student at Utrecht University and currently part of the Nederlands Silent Film Festival team in Marketing, PR, and Communication. Evelien shares how the festival got started, who was behind it all, how it is to work with world-renowned musicians, the future expectations and prospects for the festival, and many more (including how she got this job after finishing the Media and Culture Bachelor – which you can only find out if you watch the interview).
Even though it may sound ridiculous, to say the least, considering the overall disheartening direction our messed up world seems to be going towards, maybe silent films can be a solution. Or, at least, 70 minutes of a light and heartfelt distraction.
Watch the full interview with Evelien van der Kooi below: