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Japanese and Hollywood Silent Films

19 Apr 2017Film Essays

Japanese and Hollywood movie makers of the past are among the notable groups that created silent films, filming their early silent films between the end of 1890s and the early years before the 1920s. Both groups have established their indispensable presence in their respective geographical locations and that, although both are widely separated from one another at least in terms of distance, both have served as precedents for the years to come in the movie industry.

Apparently, Japanese and Hollywood silent films also have their differences and these distinctions define their very identities. For the most part, one major characteristic of Japanese silent films that sets it apart from its Hollywood counterpart is the fact that Japanese silent films reflect the eastern view about the importance of man with regard to the natural world. This is greatly attributed to the existing Confucian precepts that dictate the lives of Japanese individuals during those days. As Japanese filming technology during those days were limited, a certain degree of dependency on foreign, especially American, technology was inevitable.

On the other hand, silent films from Hollywood depicted that of the victory of humanity against hindrances and odds portrayed by mere facial expressions against the backdrop of landscape that serves as man’s testing ground. This sends the idea that Hollywood generally conceived their silent movies in terms of the existing social conditions during those times which later on served as one of the dominant factors that exemplified the rise of America into power.

The major contrast is hence prominent—while Japanese silent films portrayed the significant status of man in his relation to the world bounded by Confucian principles, Hollywood silent films depicted the struggles of man, specifically Americans, in obtaining a central position in world affairs by taking into account the existing social conditions during those times.


  • Ong, Jaime S. 'Screening the Past', (updated September 20, 2002).
  • Standish, Isolde 'Mediators of Modernity: “Photo-interpreters” in Japanese Silent Cinema'.

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