By Felicity Robertson

The Artist initially appears to be an anomaly in the world of modern cinema. It is for the most part a silent movie, completely in black and white that completely ignores the expectations of the blockbuster movie loving audience.

The film captures the essence of the 1920s with finesse. The fantastic costumes and the flickery black and white scenes conjure a sense of romantic nostalgia for past times. The story is told through suggestive music and screenshots of text. It is forgivable to think that the novelty of the silent movie may wear off quickly, however Director Michel Hazanavicius manages to engage the audience throughout with a balance of sadness and comedy.

The obvious romantic tale of the main protagonist, George Valentin and aspiring actress, Peppy Miller runs parallel to the message Hazanavicius delivers regarding the development of technology and how it will ruin Valentin’s career whilst ironically offering Miller a chance at fame.

As an aspiring actress, Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, has always been a fan of Valentin. At the premiere of his film, A Russian Affair, Valentin laps up the attention from his adoring fans and is photographed with Miller; the picture later appears on the cover of ‘Variety’ much to his wife’s dismay. Miller then inevitably stars as an extra in his next movie, The German Affair.

As sound is introduced, Valentin falls out of favour with producers and is sacked. His career is ruined and he loses his home and wife. His downfall is catastrophic and we see the devastating depression that Valentin falls in to as he starts a fire in his office. His dog, a constant throughout the film, manages to keep the film light hearted in dark moments and manages to save his life by getting the attention of a police man. This moment of the film demonstrates beautifully how Hazanavicius tackles sinister the sinister subject of suicide whilst keeping an element of comedy intact with the little dog.

Miller becomes the new star of Hollywood and we see the two main character’s relationship grow. There is a poignant moment when Valentin is rescued from the fire clutching at a reel of film. Miller later watches the clip and finds it is of them both dancing when she was an extra and he was at the height of his fame. It is a film as much about cinema as it is about personal tragedy as a result of the film industry as Valentin becomes dated as a silent actor.

The film is visually appealing to the audience breaking the modern constraints of special effects, loud noises and spoken jokes. It is an intelligent film and anyone who would like something a bit different should go and enjoy the silent movie experience.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.