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Sounds of Silents, The (Willy Sommerfeld - Der Stummfilmpianist)

Sounds of Silents, The
Willy Sommerfeld (photo © CV Films/Berlin)

He's treated like a rock star by audiences young and old, adored by film lovers and housewives alike, venerated by scholars and punks: Willy Sommerfeld, born in 1904, is a silent movie pianist—the last of his kind, a living legend with a musical memory reaching back more than a century.

He first performed in the Roaring Twenties. Today, at age 100, he is still going strong – still accompanying film live on piano and spontaneously composing the “soundtrack” to movies.

The Sounds of Silents takes us on an unforgettable journey through the life and music of Willy Sommerfeld and into the world of movies as it was when cinema was born.


Ilona Ziok was born in Gliwice/Poland and grew up in England, Germany and France. She studied in New York, Moscow and Frankfurt. Also active as a writer and producer, her films as an author and director include the documentaries: Der zweite Sieg des Jurij Vlasov (1989), Du mein Kazimierz, Shalom (1990), Wo ist die Strasse, wo ist das Haus (1991), Die Reise nach Tunesien: Psychisch Kranke machen Urlaub (1993), Kurt Gerrons Karussell (1999), The Sounds of Silents - Willy Sommerfeld, der Stummfilmpianist, 2006), Der Junker und der Kommunist (2009), and Fritz Bauer - Tod auf Raten (2010).
Genre History, Music, Love Story
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2005
Director Ilona Ziok
Screenplay Ilona Ziok
Cinematography Sergey Jurisditskiy, Wojciech Szepel, Erik Krambeck, Peter Domsch
Ludmilla Korb-Mann, Dietmar Kraus, Peter Domsch
Willy Sommerfeld
Cast Willy Sommerfeld, Sebastian Sommerfeld, Doris Sommerfeld
Producers Manuel Goettsching, Ilona Ziok
Production Company CV Films/Berlin, in co-production with Vera Vista/Prag, Matti Film/Suelfeld
Length 78 min
Format color, b&w
Original Version
 German
Subtitled Versions English, French
Sound Technology Dolby SR
Festivals Tallinn 2005, Prix Visionica Wroclaw 2007
With backing from Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, Media, Stiftung Kulturfonds, MSH, NDR, Lower Saxony Cultural Film Fund, Eurimages

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