Pioneers Film Series: Salomé (1923)
By Livia Peterson
Anthony Deutsch provided the live music accompaniment.
Based on the play of the same name by Oscar Wilde, King Herod’s stepdaughter Salome (Alla Nazimova) seduces him with the extravagant dance and therefore, she is promised the chief of the prophet John the Baptist.
As a Film Studies student, viewing Salome with the live music accompaniment is a dream come true due to it is rare to view silent films in this day and age. Moreover, to view the film at my favorite cinema — the Oriental Theatre — is just breathtaking. Even though I haven’t enjoyed Film History I (one of the required courses, as part of the Film Studies major at the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee), it is evident the silent films are able to educate us about why the film industry became a flourishing men dominated business and how early cinema influences today’s cinema even though it may be extremely understated. And yet, it is devastating in every sense why these trailblazing women were erased in film history. Nazimova focuses on our journey in to this world and examines its importance to allow the spectator cherish the experience.
As a film critic, Salome is revolutionary in its acting and production values. Compared it to today’s films, one is able to be astonished, even in the most predictable scenes. From the dialogue (intertitles) to the production design, Nazimova immediately intrigues us, as if we are prepared to be consistently surprised and as each scene progresses, it is easy to be in awe. It is difficult not to wish today’s films were this unconventional.
Salome celebrates the silent film era and yet, we must ensure Nazimova and her fellow women pioneers are remembered for their motion picture contributions. A+
Thank you to Haley Richards, Hugo Ljungback, and Dr. Tami Williams for organizing the incredible weekend. Thank you to Dr. Jane Gaines, Dr. Shelley Stamp, Dr. Maggie Hennefeld, and Dr. Jennifer Bean for providing insightful discussions in early film history.