The Toll of the Sea, 1922

 

The Toll of the Sea, 1922. Lovely, lyrical and jewel-like, this silent film is the second ever to be made in Technicolor. Innovative wonder aside, it discloses something else: unrealized possibilities for expressing narrative using motion pictures. The editing is modern—in other words, the pattern of the way narrative frames are linked is already set in formula. Yet, incapable of using sound, and restricted by cameras that had to remain motionless while shooting, the film really consists of exquisitely animated portraits; and once this is recognized, a whole new possibility of making movies is opened: they would owe more to painting than theatre. But that direction wasn’t taken. Warhol’s late 1960s “screen tests” are a step in that direction—but by his time, such an approach was “experimental.” In 1922, it was how movies were made.

 

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