Piazza Maggiore > 21:45


Victor Sjöström
Introduced by

Dave Kehr

Music composed by Carl Davis adapted and directed by Timothy Brock, performed by Orchestra del Conservatorio G.B. Martini

Event sponsored by Aeroporto G. Marconi di Bologna

(In case of rain, the screening will be canceled)


Thursday 27/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

From his first, pioneering work in Sweden, Victor Sjöström was concerned with the intersection of landscape and psychology, with the way the natural world both shaped the substance of his characters’ thoughts and feelings, and reflected those thoughts and feelings in its metaphoric grandeur. The ocean of Ingeborg Holm (1913) suggests both the depths and the tumult of its main character’s descent into madness; the mountains of The Outlaw and His Wife (1918) embody both the spiritual, transcendent plane of the central couple’s love for each other, as well as the brute physicality of the social constraints that his lovers will never quite escape. Sjöström largely left his interest in landscape behind in Sweden when he came to America in 1923, with the spectacular and singular exception of The Wind. The setting is the desert of western Texas, a land of high temperatures, low rainfall and no shade, into which a frail young woman from the east (Lillian Gish, in one of the great performances of silent film) has been thrust against her will, totally unprepared for the desolation – physical, social, psychological – that awaits her. The assault is total and unrelenting, like the raw wind that never ceases to blow across the lunar landscape (the exteriors were shot, under difficult conditions, in the Mojave Desert of southern California).
Just as the ghostly vehicle of The Phantom Carriage, Sjöström’s Swedish masterpiece of 1921, becomes the image of death, so Sjöström places a symbol in the desert sky – a wild horse that becomes the face of the wind, irrational and unstoppable, and also of the emotional pressures growing on Gish’s Letty, driving her relentlessly toward a once-unthinkable act.
MoMA’s digital restoration is based on two 35mm prints acquired from MGM in the 1930s. Although the film was shot silent, it was released with a synchronized score and sound effects with a frame rate of 24 fps, which this restoration respects.

Dave Kehr

Carl Davis’s score to The Wind

Carl Davis (1936-2023) is owed a great deal of credit. He was an excellent composer who, along with his colleagues Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, forged a path to modern silent-film scoring that we still follow today. The music to Victor Sjöström’s The Wind is among his greatest scores.
Written for string orchestra and percussion in 1983, it has a relentless and penetrating impact that only these instruments can convey. With a vast list of assorted percussion, it gives you the tangible sensation of that sandy grit in your ears that’s impossible to get rid of.
One of the wonderful traits that a Davis score has is its pure musicality. He was quite concerned that his scores felt more musical and less cinematic in its construction, which I took on board in my own compositions. And what comes with that is more flexibility in interpretation, tempo and expression, just as pure absolute music lends itself to be. They are extremely descriptive, but his scores are constructed in such a way that the music has the impulsiveness, spontaneity and freeness that is the pure definition of what silent-film music is supposed to be: instinctive musical reactions to the characters on screen. Davis’s scores always sound like he’s watching the film for the first time with you.
As good as Davis’s comedy scores are, I am a big fan of his dramatic scores above all else. His understanding of how drama works on a score page is a very rare quality. I recently conducted his score to Clarence Brown’s Flesh and the Devil, a piece rarely performed these days, and I was amazed at the sophistication and skill he put into the development of his thematic material. They evolved as the characters evolved, never outpacing the film. The Wind, written a year later, upheld those same principles. But this score takes on a simpler harmonic language, yet more brutal and relentless. It’s the desperation in the Lillian Gish character that he is writing for, and from that point of view the harmonic clashes grow as the character becomes more isolated and the situation more dire. There is very little musical sympathy for the man in this score, and rightly so.

Timothy Brock

Cast and Credits

T. it.: Il vento. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1925) di Dorothy Scarborough. Scen.: Frances Marion. F.: John Arnold. M.: Conrad A. Nervig. Scgf.: Cedric Gibbons, Edward Withers. Int.: Lillian Gish (Letty), Lars Hanson (Lige), Montagu Love (Roddy), Dorothy Cumming (Cora), Edward Earle (Beverly), William Orlamond (Sourdough), Laon Ramon, Carmen Johnson, Billy Kent Schaefer (figli di Cora). Prod.: Metro-GoldwynMayer. DCP. D.: 72’. Bn.