The Great White Silence at the BFI and nationwide in 2011

• This post was updated on 9 May 2011

An eerie filmed record of Captain Scott’s tragic journey to the South Pole, The Great White Silence (Herbert Ponting, 1924) was rightly acclaimed as a highlight of last year’s London Film Festival. The print had been restored to great effect: allowing us to see the vivid tints of the original film, and the Archive Gala screening featured a performance of Simon Fisher Turner’s intriguing minimalist score, which incorporated the Elysian Quartet, “found sounds”, and a haunting vocal from Alexander L’Estrange.

His part-improvised score includes some pre-recorded elements and Simon Fisher Turner has gone to great lengths to include relevant ‘found sounds’. The first was a gift from a friend, Chris Watson, who made a recording of the ambient silence in Scott’s cabin in the Antarctic. Fisher Turner has also recorded the striking of the Terra Nova ship’s bell at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. He has even managed to track down the expedition’s original gramophone to play some of the records which were played by members of the expedition.

If you have satellite TV, you may have recently caught the documentary on the small screen, but if you missed it, never fear, you have plenty of chances to catch it on the big screen in May and June.

First off, there will a special screening of The Great White Silence, with a recorded version of the score, at BFI Southbank on 18 May 2011, followed by a panel discussion led by Francine Stock, which will take the scoring of silent films as its subject – participants include Fisher Turner, sound recordist Chris Watson, plus Bryony Dixon and Kieron Webb from the BFI. The following weekend, there will be screenings nationwide of the film.

You want more? The Great White Silence will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 20 June.

The Great White Silence screens at NFT1 on 18 May at 6.20pm. The panel discussion will follow at 8.30pm. Tickets cost £13, or £9.75 for concessions and £1.50 less for members. They will be available from the BFI website.

The Great White Silence screens in the Studio at BFI Southbank several times throughout May and June 2011. The film will also screen at the Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Richmond and HMV Curzon Wimbledon, and at cinemas across the country including Broadway Nottingham, Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Phoenix Oxford and Chapter Cardiff.

On Friday 20 May at 11am Bryony Dixon, BFI silent film curator, will give a talk entitled Films of the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration – The Restoration of The Great White Silence in NFT3. Tickets are free for over-60s, and usual matinee prices for everyone else.

At the Curzon Mayfair on Saturday 21 May at 4pm, and Curzon Richmond on Sunday 22 May at 3.30pm, Ian Haydn Smith will host an illustrated talk called The Great White Silence and Cinema’s Exploration of the World. Tickets are £12.50 or £9.50 for members at the Mayfair cinema and £11.50 or £9.50 for members at the Richmond branch. You can buy tickets here, on the Curzon website.

8 thoughts on “The Great White Silence at the BFI and nationwide in 2011”

  1. Release schedule for The Great White Silence:

    Opens 20 May
    BFI Southbank
    Cambridge Arts Picturehouse
    Phoenix Oxford
    Broadway Nottingham
    Chapter Cardiff

    21 May
    Curzon Mayfair
    HMV Curzon Wimbledon

    From 22 May
    Greenwich Picturehouse
    Corn Exchange Newbury
    Regal Henley on Thames
    Little Theatre Bath
    Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse
    Cinema City Norwich
    Clapham Picture House
    City Screen York
    Tyneside Newcastle
    Ritzy Brixton
    Gate Notting Hill
    Stratford East Picturehouse
    Cameo Edinburgh
    Everyman Hampstead
    Harbour Lights Southampton
    Exeter Picturehouse
    Phoenix East Finchley
    Glasgow Film Theatre

    24 May
    Lighthouse Poole

    29 May
    Duke of Yorks Brighton

    From 3 June
    Filmhouse Edinburgh
    MAC Birmingham

    From 5 June
    Abbeygate Picturehouse Bury St. Edmunds

    From 6 June
    Courtyard Hereford

    12 June
    Curzon Millbank

    17 June
    Barn Theatre Darnington

    From 20 June
    DCA Dundee

    From 22 June
    Dukes Lancaster

    From 27 June
    QUAD Derby

    30 June
    Watford Palace Theatre

    From 1 July
    Gulbenkian Theatre Canterbury

    1 July
    Watermans Brentford

    3 July
    Forum Hexam

    6 July
    Aldeburgh Cinema Suffolk

    7 July
    Number 8 Pershore

    12 July
    Riverside Studios

    15 July
    San Francisco Silent Film Festival

    17 July
    Ritz Belpher
    Rex Berkhamstead

    18 July
    Hertford Theatre

    1 August
    MacRoberts AC Stirling

    10 August
    Warwick Arts Centre

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