The Phantom Carriage

The Phantom Carriage

Letterboxd Season Challenge: 2019-20

Week 4: September 29th-October 5th
Horrors Beyond Words Week

It feels funny to say, but I am speechless after viewing this silent-era movie. This must have been a damn revelation in motion picture storytelling when this first came out. I have to go read everything about it now, how it was made, how it was received...

So much is so well done here. The use of color is sublime - the yellow hues are warm, and contrast well with the deathly frightening blues. The double exposures are BREATHTAKING - I simply cannot believe that this ghostly effect was conceived of and put into effect in 1921. I could not believe my eyes. They were so well done, too - more haunting in ways than movies can come up with, partly due to their limitations. Not being able to show EVERYTHING allows them to keep themselves shrouded in mystery.

And the soundtrack...good lord, the soundtrack. A quick Google search tells me there are two main versions, a KTL one and a Matti Bye one, and I have no idea which one I watched. Whichever one comes standard on the Criterion Streaming App I suppose - if anyone knows please let me know in the comments (edit: it was Matti Bye. I highly recommend his version, which is much more evocative of the silent films of the era than the KTL soundtrack which, while haunting, doesn't feel as "authentic" to the experience). It was an absolute joy when paired with the film. It's interesting, knowing that these scores were composed decades after the film was feels like an extra addition, but one that serves the film rather than takes away.

This is my first silent film I've ever seen. And it takes some adjusting. It's not an easy thing to watch when you've grown accustomed to the luxuries of film we have today. But with time, and repeat viewings, I'm sure I'll find the headspace I need to be in to become fully absorbed.

Godspeed, phantom driver.

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