Frédéric Bonnaud (Cinémathèque française)
Music by Wolfgang Zeller, restored by Timothy Brock, performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale, directed by Timothy Brock
(In case of rain, the screening will be cancelled)
Un chien andalou came from an encounter between two dreams. When I arrived to spend a few days at Dalí’s house in Figueras, I told him about a dream I’d had in which a long, tapering cloud sliced the moon in half, like a razor blade slicing through an eye. Dalí immediately told me that he’d seen a hand crawling with ants in a dream he’d had the previous night. “And what if we started right there and made a film?” he wondered aloud. Despite my hesitation, we soon found ourselves hard at work, and in less than a week we had a script. Our only rule was very simple: No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.
Luis Buñuel, My Last Breath, Jonathan Cape, London 1984
Un chien andalou is an essential work from many standpoints: sureness in the mise-en-scène, skillful lighting, perfect understanding of the visual and ideological associations, solid dream logic, admirable comparison between subconscious and rational. When considered in terms of its social theme, Un chien andalou is a precise and courageous film
… An Andalusian dog is howling, but who died? Our sense of apathy, that leads us to accept all the monstrosities committed by man in the world, is put to the test when we cannot stand the onscreen sight of a female eye cut in two by a razor. But is that a more frightening sight than a cloud concealing a full moon? That is the prologue; and we must admit that it does not leave us cold. It assures us that this film is about seeing with different eyes than usual, if you can say that … Monsieur Buñuel is a good swordsman, and he doesn’t know how to fake it. A stab at the macabre ceremonies, at the last ablutions of a being that is no longer, of which only dust remains. A stab at whoever stained love with violence. A stab at sadism, whose most secret form consists in curiosity. And let’s pull on the rope of Morality we put around our neck. Let’s see what’s on the other side. A cork, at least that’s a topic with a certain weightiness. A bowler hat, poor bourgeois. Two brothers from the Christian School, poor Christ. Two grand pianos, full of carcasses and excrement, poor hypersensitivity. And to finish, a jackass in the foreground, as planned. Monsieur Buñuel is terrible. They must be ashamed, they who in their youth killed what they could have been, which they now seek along the beach where the sea flings back our memories and regrets, until it becomes parched of what we are when the spring comes. Cave canem… Beware of the dog, it bites.
Jean Vigo, Vers un cinéma social, 1930
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí. F.: Albert Duverger; M.: Luis Buñuel. Scgf.: Pierre Schildknechtò. Int.: Luis Buñuel (l’uomo col rasoio), Pierre Batcheff (il ciclista / l’uomo), Simone Mareuil (la ragazza), Jaime Miravilles, Marval (due preti), Fano Messan (l’androgino), Robert Hommet (l’uomo della spiaggia). Prod.: Luis Buñuel. DCP. Bn.
For Dreyer, vampirism is nothing more than a pretext for a series of personal variations on a theme; or better yet, a springboard to express the obsessive funereal rite that is the basis of his art. Some might call this a betrayal. Perhaps. In any case, as you get closer to this fundamental work – whether it be from the perspective of vampirism, witchcraft, mysticism, or either sacred or profane passion – the words and images begin to take on different meanings. Everything collapses, gives way and disappears. It is not a case of the passage from reality to imagination (as in Buñuel, Cocteau or Franju), but rather a progressive immersion into a sort of intermediate world, a limbo where settings, landscapes and sounds no longer possess the same structures or nuances. We enter into a world that is muffled and dark, as if lit only by the light of the moon; where reassuring theories end up appearing almost monstrous; and where the only points of reference for such theories are objects (tables, lamps, pitchers, magic books), bizarre relics of an earlier life. The subtly assimilated references to expressionist aesthetics, the contribution of designers such as Jean Hugo and Hermann Warm, and the photographic style of Rudolph Maté with its oblique lighting are not sufficient to explain this sense of complete disorientation, which is unique in the history of cinema […]
To love Vampyr, all you have to do is adopt the point of view of magic, or even of madness, pure and simple. There is no doubt that Dreyer was mad. Mad like Novalis, Swedenborg, Chamisso and Achim von Arnim. Incapable of seeing the world as it is, but rather subtly distorting it, encircling it with the aura of a strange, milky fog. In the end, perhaps Dreyer was nothing more than an artist intent on lovingly sculpting his dreams I would dare to say that here we are very close to the oneiric in its purest state. Vampyr is a film from the hereafter, a funereal and sepulchral film, which transforms into shadow and dust – what am I saying – transforms into the dust of shadows everything that lives and walks […] The wheel of time measures out our fates, grinding up individuals and things in its absurd mechanism and leaving behind only stars.
Claude Beylie, “Midi-Minuit Fantastique”, n. 20, 1968
Wolfgang Zeller’s score to Vampyr
I had the idea of making a live-performance version of Vampyr 30 years ago, but had assumed that the score, like so many, was lost. I am indebted to Martin Koerber, Cineteca di Bologna and the Deutsche Filminstitut for providing a photographic copy of the manuscript from which this restoration comes.
Dreyer’s film demands a lot from his composer, serving as a lyrical narrator in a film with practically no sound or dialogue. It is the exact opposite of Browning’s Dracula made just one year earlier, which is all dialogue and sound, but no original score. Wolfgang Zeller (1893-1967), whose cinematic roots lie in Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 Prince Achmed, was well versed in the musical language of silent cinema. The score intensely accompanies 71 of the 73 minutes of Vampyr, feverishly stressing Dreyer’s dark landscape with compelling lyrical and ethereal passages, as well as incredibly effective recitatives which suspend the music, allowing the film to embrace Dreyer’s first endeavour in sound.
However the sparse lines of dialogue only serve as practical sound effects – like a door creak, or a raven’s caw – and does little to move the story forward. It is the music that carries that task. In fact, the majority the sound-effects were performed by the orchestra themselves, and is written into the score.
That said, there is still a lot missing on paper. While conducting the recording session, Zeller made a massive assortment of tempo changes, repeat bars, scratchedout notes and instrumental substitutions. Compounded by a poor-quality 1931 recording, it was a challenge to notate these changes into something that (I hope) resembled what Zeller heard. The manuscript was written in pencil, and later inked in pen, with frequent indecipherable indications of visual cues and directions. Never having revisited his score, Zeller archived his manuscript, which, until now, has never been heard live by the public.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: da Carmilla e altri racconti della raccolta In the Glass Darkly (Avventure di fantasmi, 1872) di Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Scen.: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Christen Jul. F.: Rudolf Maté, Louis Née. M.: Tonka Taldy. Scgf.: Hermann Warm, Cesare Silvagni. Mus.: Wolfgang Zeller. Int.: Julian West [barone Nicolas de Gunzburg] (David ‘Allan’ Gray), Henriette Gérard (Marguerite Chopin, il vampiro), Jan Hieronimko (il dottore), Maurice Schutz (il castellano), Sybille Schmitz (Léone, sua figlia maggiore), Rena Mandel (Gisèle, sua figlia minore), Albert Bras (il domestico), N. Babanini (sua moglie), Jane Mora (l’infermiera). Prod.: Carl Theodor Dreyer, barone Nicolas de Gunzburg per Carl Theodor Dreyer Film Production, Tobis-Melofilm GmbH. DCP. Bn.
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