Literary adaptations for the silent screen pose certain difficulties. Limited to intertitles and images, how then to cinematically “translate” text-based literature onto the screen without turning the movie into an illustrated manuscript? For an author like Edgar Allan Poe, there is the issue of not only plot, but also the cadence of his language, which gives so much flavor and atmosphere to the stories. For his film of The Fall of the House of Usher, Jean Epstein took a bold approach, not so much following Poe’s directly as moving parallel to it, using cinema’s distinct capabilities to create something analogous to what Poe was doing with language. As Jean-André Fieschi wrote of Epstein, “he is less interested in the expressive possibilities of visual writing than in a certain degree of autonomy pertaining to it.”
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.