Hypocrisy – Orchestral Suite
I. The Gates of Truth
IV. Elusive Truths
V. Gabriel the Ascetic
VII. Fated Féte Day
VIII. Dancing Children
IX. Shock and Death
X. Robe of Mourning
XI. Vignette of Love
XII. Mixed Signals
XIII. Sermon of Hypocrisy
13 Movements of Original Music Based on the 1915 Silent Film Directed by Lois Weber
Barbara Harbach wrote Hypocrisy, an original film score to the 1915 silent film, Hypocrites, directed by the legendary American director, Lois Weber (1888-1939). The film points out the intriguing, aggravating, moralizing indictment of hypocrisy, especially applied to religion, business, politics, love, and family. The film’s use of religious imagery and innovative special effects is also noteworthy. The newly composed score is of special artistic significance for its focus on raising the awareness of contemporary and original music with an historical silent film.
The film follows the two parallel stories of an early Christian monk, Gabriel, and a modern minister. The Medieval monk devotes himself to completing a statue of “Truth.” When his work turns out to be an image of a naked woman, an ignorant mob murders him. The contemporary minister is the pastor of a large wealthy urban congregation for whom religion is a matter of appearances and not beliefs. A series of vignettes in which the Naked Truth, a female nude, reveals the hypocrisy of the congregation and then exposes their voracious appetite for money, sex, and power. In the film, the nudity is barely visible due to the film technique of double exposure, producing a ghostly appearance. This technique was revolutionary for the time, as was Weber’s intricate editing.
Hypocrites was a shocking and controversial film. Distribution of the film did not occur for months due to the debate over the release of a film with frontal nudity. Interestingly, the British Board of Film Censors accepted the film. However, because of the recurring nudity throughout the film, it caused riots in New York, banned in Ohio, and the mayor of Boston demanded the film negatives be painted over in order to cover the woman with clothes. Although there were calls for censorship, the film was as an artistic and cultural milestone.
Most of the film has survived, though some early scenes have suffered from nitrate decomposition in places. A print of the film resides in the Library of Congress and is now available on DVD by Kino.
Lois Weber was the leading female director-screenwriter in early Hollywood. She began her career alongside her husband, Phillips Smalley. Her films were well scripted and acted, as well as very popular, and financially successful. They addressed topics that contained controversial social issues: abortion, birth control, capital punishment, religious hypocrisy, a living wage, child labor, prostitution, and white slavery. The New York Evening Journal described the film as “the most startlingly satisfying and vividly wonderful creation of the screen age.” Harbach has divided the forty-nine minute film into eleven short movements, each portraying the underlying pathos of the scene.