Silent Britain

Take a trip back to a time before ‘talkies’.

As part of a two-month celebration of the 75th anniversary of the BFI National Archive – the world’s most significant archive of the moving image – the Mediatheque launched an instalment in our collection of silent British feature films. Silent Britain allows unprecedented access to this unfairly neglected period in our cinematic history.

From the early development of the feature film in the 1910s to the explosion of creativity in the late 1920s, this collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of British film during the interwar period (as well as a 1916 film of Lady Windermere’s Fan, one of the earliest Oscar Wilde adaptations), before the coming of sound on the cusp of the 1930s changed the industry forever.

Five to try

At the Villa Rose (1920)

Kidnap, murder and fake séances in the French Riviera. Based on the novel by AEW Mason.

Comin’ Thro’ the Rye (1923)

Beautiful pastoral melodrama, considered by Cecil Hepworth to be his masterpiece.

High Treason (1928)

Britain’s answer to Metropolis – a sci-fi epic of conspiracy and sabotage set in a futuristic London.

The Man Without Desire (1923)

Ivor Novello stars in this extraordinary psychosexual time-travelling drama.

Sweeney Todd (1928)

Early British horror about the legendary barber-cum-killer, made over 80 years before Tim Burton’s vision.

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