‘The Great White Silence’ and other chilly cinematic delights…

SNOW! You are probably sick of hearing about the stuff by now, but that has never stopped us Filmspotters from pulling on our wellies, hats and gloves… although in reality, this weather does just make us yearn for blankets and a good, cosy film to watch.

By coincidence, though, we are pleased to announce that our first Filmspot screening for 2013 will be the very appropriate ‘Great White Silence’ [1924], at Salisbury Museum on Saturday 9th March at 2.30pm

Newly restored by the BFI and a winner of awards, The Great White Silence is a deeply moving account of Scott’s sea journey south from New Zealand and, once his team reaches Antarctica, their preparations for the long walk.

Scott chose to take Salisbury-born Herbert Ponting to record the journey. Thanks to Ponting’s superb eye, a century later we have an astonishing visual account of his tragic quest. After Scott’s death Ponting began a lecture tour which he eventually built into a silent film (now with a new haunting score performed by the contemporary string ensemble, The Elysian Quartet) with intertitles, as well as his own stills, maps, portraits and paintings, to create a narrative of the terrible events. He even filmed some novel sequences using models and stop-motion photography to show the various journeys of the polar teams. The final film was tinted and toned to express lighting effects. Although he did not travel beyond the final base camp, Ponting had the foresight to film Scott, Edward Wilson, ‘Taff’ Evans and Henry Bowers (interestingly, the same men, with Lawrence Oates, were to form the – as yet unselected – polar team) manhauling the sledge and cooking and sleeping in their tent, just as they were to do for real on the way to and from the Pole. It really is a compelling and beautiful film. Here is the trailer, to whet your appetite.

Please contact Salisbury Museum to book your tickets (£6 for members; £8 for non-members) on 01722 332151. The Museum has a webpage about the event here

For those Filmspotters in the East Sussex area, we will be running a screening of ‘The Great White Silence’ at Newhaven Fort in June, and will announce final details in the coming weeks.

Inspired by Captain Scott and our upcoming visit to Salisbury, as well as the ‘winter wonderland’, which is now rapidly melting outside, we have been thinking about some of our favourite films featuring snow. So, without further ado, here you are:

1. Fargo [1996]

Joel and Ethan Coen‘s quirky crime comedy uses its snow bound ‘Minnesota nice’ setting to great effect – and particularly revel in the contract of white and red, and ‘niceness’ and ‘nastiness’. The film boasts a fantastic cast, featuring many of the Coen’s regular collaborators, including Frances McDormand, William H Macy and Steve Buscemi – and of course the unforgettably sing-song accents: ‘Yah, you betcha!’

2. The Gold Rush [1925]

This wonderful silent comedy is the film that Chaplin himself said he wanted to be remembered for – and indeed, this film features many of Chaplin’s most memorable scenes, including he often parodied ‘bread roll dance’. The film follows the exploits of The Tramp as he travels to take part in the Klondike gold rush.

3. Touching The Void [2003]

Kevin McDonald’s gripping documentary follows the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who successfully climbed to the summit of previously unclimbed Siula Grande in Peru. After a disastrous accident, leaving his partner hanging by a rope over a cliff, Yates, who felt sure Simpson was dead, cut the rope. Consisting of re-enactment footage, together with interviews with the mountaineers.

4. Ikiru [1952]

Admittedly the trailer above doesn’t exactly scream SNOW at you, but snow features in the most pivotal scene of this wonderful, moving film. In this humble Filmspotter’s opinion, this is Akira Kurosawa’s best film, with a touching performance by the underrated Takashi Shimura. The story follows a middle-aged bureaucrat who, on learning he has less than a year to live, attempts to come to terms with his impending death and sets about discovering the secret to happiness.

5. Bambi

I know that this, like Ikiru, isn’t entirely focussed on snow, but the clip above of Bambi on ice is the Disney studio demonstrating why they were at the top of the animation tree for so long.

Hope to see some of you in Salisbury in March – keep cosy!



As a warm up for our forthcoming screening at the CMP Festival of The Prince and the Showgirl (ticket details at the end of the post!), I thought I’d share a few Royalty themed films (for those of you not already exhausted by all things regal, following certain big national occasions earlier this Spring that shall not be mentioned!).

Yes, yes, I know I missed off the King’s Speech… any of your favourites I’ve missed off, just let us know!

Madness of King George (1994)

So rather than ‘The King’s Speech’, I give you another much-lauded British film. Adapted for the screen by Alan Bennett from his own play, and starring Nigel Hawthorne who is at his finest as the ailing monarch. There are some wonderful strong performances, and fast paced, witty dialogue. Bennett took a wonderful play and turned it into a different, more focused animal for the screen.


Throne of Blood (Kumonosu Jô) (1957)

Macbeth, in feudal Japan – in the style of a Japanese noh play – by one of Japan’s greatest directors. Many Shakespeare adaptations could/ should have made it into this list, but this, although certainly not the most accurate, is certainly one of the most engaging. Visually stunning, and featuring Kurosawa’s favourite lead, Toshiro Mifune, it oozes atmosphere and menace. The sparse, simple settings suggest stage sets, and the ominous fog outside build on the sense of claustrophobia that pervades the film. A true screen adaptation, which doesn’t aim to merely put the play onto the screen, it is a re-imagining, taking Macbeth as its starting point, and fully exploring its themes.

Robin Hood (1973)

Of course Disney had to feature in this list, after all, what about all those Disney Princesses? I haven’t chosen a Disney princess this time, though – I’m going for the cowardly lion, Prince John (voiced by the fantastically campy Peter Ustinov).

This feature is, to me, Disney at their best – it’s a fun, stylish film with a great sound track, and solid animation. Created on a tight budget, the animators reused footage from earlier features in some of the scenes, notably pinching from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘The Aristocats’, so you could almost call it a greatest hits compendium!

Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn’s first American feature, ‘Roman Holiday’ is a delightful romantic comedy, co-starring the ever-charming Gregory Peck. Hepburn plays Princess Anne, from an unknown country, who is on an official tour of Europe. She is overwhelmed by her schedule of official duties, and escapes to experience ‘real’ Rome, where she meets Joe Bradley, an American journalist. When he discovers her true identity he decides to take her on a whirlwind tour of the city, after promising his editor an exclusive interview.

 The Princess Bride (1987)

This would have featured on the list anyway, but is here in honour of the great Peter Falk, who sadly passed away last week.

The Princess Brideneeds no introduction – it has a huge cult fan-base, who can undoubtedly quote huge portions of the film word for word. Based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name and directed by Rob Reiner (of ‘Spinal Tap’), it is a fairy story with a quirky and biting sense of humour. Although very of its time, the witty script lifts it, and it feels much fresher than the tongue in cheek fairy tales which have become in vogue since ‘Shrek’. Go and watch it now, and don’t forget to memorise all the quotable lines…

FILMSPOT SCREENING OF ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ (1957)

Saturday 16th July, 4pm St Nicholas Church, Brighton

Tickets £7 (£5 concession)

Available from http://www.brightonticketshop.com/

Part of the CMP Festival http://www.cmpcaonline.org.uk/category_id__65.aspx