The Phantom Carriage
The seduction of silent cinema is the seduction of a form as unique as opera or kabuki, a peculiar way of organizing one’s attention. It is a perpetual learning how to see, and a way of coming to the truth of one of Emerson’s observations: “The eye is final.” But there is the further peculiarity that what you see takes place in a world no longer there. Here are cities since reduced to rubble and rebuilt, stretches of countryside by now turned into interstates and strip malls, glaciated wilderness that has probably succumbed to climate change—and of course the faces of those now long dead, something too easily taken for granted but that haunts movies from the start. The inventors of the medium were already thinking about recording the living as a future consolation for their survivors.