Tag Archives: Dreyer

The Passion of Joan of Arc with Voices of Light at the Barbican, 6 November 2011

Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, performed in Fairfax, VA in 2001
Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, performed in Fairfax, VA in 2001

This blog has been all a-twitter about Dreyer’s masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, recently, because it has been given a new rock-influenced score. By contrast, Richard Einhorn’s 1994 Voices of Light composition for orchestra and chorus seems like the established standard.

This is the magnificent soundtrack you can hear on the Criterion DVD release of the film, and though it is not without controversy (some feel that adding choral music to an anti-clerical film is rather beside the point), it has been widely, and rightly, acclaimed. It’s a real spine-tingler. You can read more about it here, and listen to it yourself online here.

Voices of Light is definitely something you want to experience live though, and luckily this November the Barbican Concert Hall is staging a performance of Voices of Light that you really, really don’t want to miss out on. The score will be performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus, conducted by the trailblazing Marin Alsop. A film as majestic as The Passion of Joan of Arc deserves to seen this way, so this is a wonderful opportunity.

Yes, this definitely counts as advance notice, but tickets are already on sale, so ink it in your diary, people.

Einhorn Voices of Light and Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc will be performed at the Barbican Concert Hall on Sunday 6 November 2011 at 7.30pm. Tickets range from £10 to £35 and are available here on the Barbican website.

And while we’re here – have you bought your tickets for Underground yet?

Silent film at the Brighton Festival, 7-29 May 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

This month sees the return of Brighton Festival, a three-week cultural feast, featuring music, theatre, comedy and more than the city’s usual share of jugglers no doubt. It’s a very high-profile event – Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi is the festival’s Guest Director this year, and she has recorded an inspiring message for the festival website, all about creativity and freedom of expression.

Therefore I am very pleased to say that early cinema is among the artforms represented at the seaside festival, most notably by a screening of Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, accompanied by Adrian Utley and Will Gregory’s compelling new score. I was fortunate enough to see (and hear) this last week in London and it really is a tour de force, so please do attend the screening on 29 May at the Concert Hall if you can. Details here.

But it doesn’t stop there. Professor Heard will be setting up shop in the festival’s pop-up cinema, for two magic lantern shows on 16 May. First on the bill, at 7.45pm, will be the Old Curiosity Show, featuring “bearded ladies, alphabetical acrobats, prodigious pigs, baby juggling and curious cinema advertisements”. Then at 9pm the professor will return with a little something strictly for the over-18s:

A sniggerfest of artistic fluffing material. A prurient look at Victorian erotica, plus further examples of the way in which Victorian gentlemen and ladies got their jollies. Definitely not for children.

Details of both magic lantern shows can be found here.

Elsewhere, on the Festival Fringe, David Watts will perform his The Silent Movie Experience on 15, 22 and 29 May, playing along to silent comedies at the Komedia Studio. Details here.

Also at the Komedia Studio, an intriguing short theatre piece called Asta Nielsen is Dead: a Silent Movie will use projections and captions to pay homage to the Danish actress:

Lady Pumpernickel and Miss Carrota interact with projected texts and images, using methods found in silent films. As in silent films the performers will suffer from the tragedies of love & attempt to escape bizarre and humorous accidents. At the end there is just one open question: Who is going to die?
Asta Nielsen is Dead will be performed at 5.15pm on 7 May – more information here.

Michael at the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, 6 April

Michael (1924)
Michael (1924)

April brings two opportunities to catch Dreyer films on the big screen in London – with The Passion of Joan of Arc at Queen Elizabeth Hall and Michael, an earlier and lesser known work by the Danish director, which is being shown at the BFI Southbank as part of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. It’s a highly regarded film, although apparently its reception was not so friendly when it was released in the US, where critics objected to the gay storyline. More fool them. The film tells the story of a successful painter (played by Benjamin Christensen) and his unrequited love for his protegé Michael (Walter Slezak), who is, in turn, in love with a countess (Nora Gregor). Michael has a melodramatic plot, but is told sensitively, in Dreyer’s Kammerspiel style, and is beautifully designed and photographed.  Casper Tybjerg writes on carlthdreyer.dk:

This sophisticated film unfolds in sumptuously decorated interiors filled with extravagant objets d’art. Dreyer had a big budget and UFA’s state-of-the-art studio facilities at his disposal as well as Karl Freund, a top director of photography in his day. Michael is a chamber play, depicting a few people and their mutual relationships. All significant things remain unspoken. Dreyer has the camera tell the story in glances, facial expressions and objects. For Dreyer, working with the actors was what mattered, guiding them to give nuanced and precise emotional performances to be captured in close-ups.

Anyone who has seen The Passion of Joan of Arc will know what Dreyer can do with a close-up, so this film looks like a must-see. It’s only a pity that it will be showing in one of the BFI’s smaller screens. For a full (very full) review of Michael, see this entry on jclarkmedia.com.

Michael screens at NFT3, BFI Southbank on 6 April at 6.10pm. There will be piano accompaniment. Tickets cost £9.50 or £6.75 for concessions, and less for BFI members. They will be available on 11 March for BFI members and from 18 March for everyone else. More details on the festival website here.

The Passion of Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 28 April 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

I hoped this might happen: a standalone performance of Adrian Utley and Will Gregory’s score for Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), as a warmup to the screening at the I’ll Be Your Mirror Festival in July. It’s a staggeringly powerful film, with an unforgettable performance by Falconetti in the title role. If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to do so.

This score, which involves rock guitars, a choir and an orchestra, promises to be of a suitably epic scale and has been reviewed well. It was commissioned by Colston Hall in Bristol and premiered there last May. This, its first London performance, is part of the Ether Festival, a celebration of “innovation, art, technology and cross-arts experimentation”. You might also be interested in another event in the festival: a live soundtrack by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices to Kubrick’s 2011: A Space Odyssey in the Royal Festival Hall.

The Passion of Joan of Arc screens at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank on 28 April 2011 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available here. You can watch a video about the development of the score here.