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Commentaries on this Media!

Class melodrama

by Kate Fortmueller

Silent Witnesses seems to prefigure the British Upstairs/Downstairs narratives (recently popularized in the U.S. by Downton Abbey). This opening sequence is not narratively important for the melodrama that transpires, but it does give a clear sense Bauer's use of space, staging, and production design. This segment opens with the maid crying because she is not allowed to travel with her fiancé.  Although the situation seems hopeless, Nastia's sacrifice allows them to leave (narratively this sets up Nastia as one of the central characters).  In this sequence note how the women move between the foreground and background and how they participate in the narrative action.  It is also worth noting the seemingly coincidental similarities between Nastia's father (the porter) and Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh.

Silent Witnesses (aka Nemye Svideteli) (1914)

In this early sequence Nastia volunteers to take over as the maid so the other maid can visit her fiancé's village.

from Silent Witnesses (1914)
Creator: Yevgeni Bauer
Distributor: Milestone Film & Video
Posted by Kate Fortmueller