Silent film

The earliest films have no sound. They were made ​​in the period from 1896 to about 1930, when sound film arrived. This was the era in which film grew from a technical novelty and fairground attraction into a mass medium that brought millions of people to the cinema.

The films from this period may have been silent, but in the cinemas they were provided with sound by a narrator, or by music that was played live.

Genres develop

This was also the period in which different genres developed and flourished. In the first three decades of silent film, there were about 7,000 films made in the Netherlands, ranging from short newsreels and advertising films to feature films and documentaries.

Intertitle from Der geheimnisvolle Klub (Joseph Delmont, 1913)
Intertitle from Der geheimnisvolle Klub (Joseph Delmont, 1913)
Still from De molens die juichen en weenen (Alfred Machin, 1912). Colour was applied in post production through tinting and toning.
Still from De molens die juichen en weenen (Alfred Machin, 1912). Colour was applied in post production through tinting and toning.

Many films from the silent period have since been lost: it is assumed that about three-quarters of the silent films worldwide have been destroyed, thrown away, or lost to fire. This also applies to the Dutch silent film. Most of the silent films that remain are now housed in our collection.

Silent films were usually shot on nitrate, a film material that is very flammable and vulnerable. That is why Eye Filmmuseum and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision have conserved and digitized the majority of these films in recent decades. The digitized silent films from our collection can be viewed (where copyright allows it) in the database of this website.

Watch silent films online

You can watch several hundred silent films from our collection directly online for free.

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