While in seminary, I had an exceptional teacher named Dr. Stonehouse who shared a new model of teaching young children Bible stories and worship. She showed us a video of herself going through the process where she uses objects to tell a story. As I watched I thought, “This would never work with kids!” For starters, she kept her eyes on the objects and never once looked up. Then she kept asking questions that were completely open-ended and sometimes didn’t even seem to have much of a purpose (e.g. “I wonder if any of these sheep have names. I wonder what their names would be.” And she left long pauses in between those questions (for me as an adult they were painfully long). I was shocked at the end when I made a discovery: even though I couldn’t see them in the frame of the video, there were kids in front of her listening to her lesson! I didn’t hear a thing from them. According to her, this was typical for her when using this form of storytelling with kids.

Her lack of eye contact was intentional. The kids’ eyes were drawn to the objects and their story instead of on her. Her pauses were intentional too. The purpose was to hold back on telling the kids what to hear, what to think, or what to know and give them a chance to come to their own conclusions. She shared that one day she was talking to one of the little boys in her program and asked him what he liked most about church and worship. He said, “I like how you let us think.”

And Dr. Stonehouse isn’t alone. At the time I was taking the course, my children were very young and they simply adored Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues, two kids’ TV shows that also leave those painfully long pauses after asking questions.

For most of us, sometime between middle school and middle age we get weary of movies and TV shows that spell out everything for us. We can put up with some of the put-a-button-on-it, moral of the story kind of a wrap up that we get from shows like Full House because they’re so corny they’re great. But for the most part, we’d rather make our own conclusions. That’s one of the many things that makes storytelling such a great experience. Those of you that say you watch TV or movies for “mindless entertainment,” in reality that is at best only half true. We all like to engage in a story that, for some reason, matters to us.

If you haven’t tried a silent film, maybe you should. They’re better listeners than a lot of people you’ll meet.

Congratulations Safety Last. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Absolutely Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc. That movie by all rights is boring, but somehow it manages to be captivating. And Falconetti… wow. Those eyes though!

Best Actor: Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen in Metropolis. And yes, the name of the movie is where the creator of Superman came up with with the name of his fictional city. The robot is also what inspired the design of C3PO. And those are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in regards to the influence this movie has had on film making.

Best Quote: Though silent, these movies do use title cards. Here’s one from Metropolis: “Let’s all watch as the world goes to the devil!” — The Machine Man (disguised as Maria).

I haven’t seen Safety Last yet, but I plan to sometime this month. Until then, here are my favourite silent films ranked:

10. Metropolis (1927)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
8. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
7. The Artist (2011)
6. City Lights (1931)
5. Modern Times (1936)
4. Nosferatu (1922) {that old funky Dracula one}
3. The General (1926) {Buster Keaton}
2. The Gold Rush (1925)
1. The Kid (1921)

Honourable Mention: This is only a short, but I did enjoy watching A Trip to the Moon (1902).


One thought on “Listen…

  1. This post contains so much truth. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed watching silent films. While I haven’t seen many I have seen both City Lights and The Kid. You laugh at something because you think it’s funny not because it was made to be “obviously” funny. And when you reach that touching moment you really feel it. And while there’s music going on, I don’t feel like it’s used to play on your emotions like today’s movies that play the latest greatest song that everyone loves. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

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