Thursday, April 1, 2010


Erich von Stroheim’s dramatic silent film, Greed, was a very interesting visual representation of Frank Norris’ McTeague. The exaggerated facial expressions and gestures added more emotion to the film, but detracted from any realistic qualities of people in general. More than anything, I believe the music was a great contribution to the various themes and movements of the plot. If feelings were sounds, I would say the soundtrack to Greed hit it spot on.

The importance of gold in the novel was not reduced by the film; placing handcrafted tints of color on every gold object was an intriguing method to capture its significance. Norris is using gold to portray the corrupting influence it has on human nature, and I was glad that this symbolism was not abandoned in the movie.

Still, from the clip of the shorter version of the film we watched in class today, I believe that the novel is a superior production of the story. The type of acting necessary to accomplish the same emotions that were conveyed in McTeague made the entire film a little unrealistic. However, I also have to understand my own bias, since I have experienced life from a much different cultural and historical vantage point. This may detract from my ability to fully appreciate the silent film for its true quality. After seeing Avatar in 3D, this kind of movie just doesn’t quite measure up.

Cutting down the film to only about a quarter of the original is disappointing. It is rare to find a director that is eager and willing to produce a movie so close to the storyline of the novel. Although I’m sure none of the major events were eliminated, important secondary characters were probably lost, as well as interesting details that may have provided more insight and depth into the study of human flaws.


  1. I really liked the soundtrack also. I thought it did a good job of capturing not only the themes but represented what was going on inside each actor very well. I also would have liked to have seen the full length version, to not only see the physical transformation of the characters at a more gradual pace but to see the full build up of the story. I think Stroheim could have captured many subtle character nuances rather well.

  2. btw-that is a sweet quote by Thoreau in your pic! I'm snagging it!

  3. I agree that the soundtrack was perfect!! It's like in scary movies if you put it on mute, it wouldn't be as scary. I thought the music really helped accentuate the mood that the characters set up with their expressive acting.

  4. I'm curious how much more strongly the directorial version of the film exemplified the artistic qualities of the book. Would a 9 hour page-by-page version be better able to duplicate the specific thoughts and feelings put forth by McTeague?

    I'm also on the bandwagon with everyone else about the effectiveness of the soundtrack. I think modern movies should take their cues for soundtrack more strongly from older, silent films.

  5. I liked the music in this version, too, Carissa. It's true that most of the subplots were eliminated in this shorter version.

    Our library has a book with the scenario of _Greed_, but there's also a giant book filled with still photographs from the missing sequences.