HippFest 2022 preview: Scotland's silent film fest returns

Mark Kermode's band scores FW Murnau’s City Girl and Withnail & I’s Paul McGann narrates the closing gala, L’Homme du Large – those are just a few potential highlights from this year's HippFest

Article by Jamie Dunn | 09 Feb 2022
  • The Unknown

Like practically every film festival in the UK, the 2020 edition of the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival got the kibosh thanks to you-know-what. After hosting the 2021 edition online, the festival (nicknamed HippFest for short) is back to pretty much full-strength again. The festival returns 16-20 March with an in-person programme taking place at Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness, Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema.

The lively programme is filled with silent-era movies getting a new lease of life by receiving the live score treatment. The festivities kick off with historical drama The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots, which reportedly puts the recent Saoirse Ronan version in the shade. As well as a live score, the screening will also have a live narrator keeping you abreast of what’s happening on screen,. Earlier in the day there’ll be a a discussion of cinema’s relationship with Mary Queen of Scots and the various cinematic interpretations of her throughout the years, presented by Donald Smith, director of the Scottish Storytelling Festival.

Another must-see looks to be the festival’s resurrection of Jean Epstein’s version of The Fall of the House of Usher, which is jam-packed with kaleidoscopic images and dripping in the kind of gothic atmosphere that Edgar Allan Poe would surely have approved of; pianist Stephen Horn and harpist Elizabeth Jane Baldry will provide the score. Elsewhere expect derring-do adventures with silent screen hunk Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro; one of the earliest surviving Chinese features, A String of Pearls from 1926; and plenty of slapstick, including a Laurel and Hardy triple-bill and a Charlie Chaplin double.

FW Murnau’s symphonic City Girl will receive a live score courtesy of The Dodge Brothers (whose number includes film critic Mark Kermode) and silent film specialist Neil Brand on piano, and the curtain comes down on the festival with Withnail & I’s Paul McGann performing narration for HippFest’s closing night gala, L’Homme du Large.

It looks set to be an unmissable weekend of silent film; for the full lineup, head to hippodromecinema.co.uk/silent-film-festival