More than just a silent film, the Devil Music Ensemble, a 3-piece live ensemble orchestra, will accompany NOSFERATU for two special screenings at The Village East Cinema this Halloween night.
We sat down with one of the founders of the Devil Music Ensemble, Jonah Rapino, to find out more about this cult film with a twist.
Can you tell us a little bit about your production of Nosferatu? How did it start and what do you guys do during the show?
Jonah: We decided to do a new original soundtrack to Nosferatu for a full U.S. tour in 2005. For years we thought it would be too clichÃ© to score and tour with this film, but that year it got included into our list of potential films to score; and when I actually paid attention and watched the entire film, I was hooked. I finally saw how captivating Max Schrekâ??s Nosferatu character really was. I also found that the film was filled with a wide variety of emotions and subjects that would be very inspiring for many different types of musical compositions. Romance, chase scenes, scientific inquiry scenes, the mad house, the ocean, a mysterious book, and the rest of the great tension and release scenes. Our production process is very simple and egalitarian. We set up with a variety of instruments and jam together as the film rolls. We are playing off of the pace and moods of the film as well as each other. We record two or three of these jam sessions and then to listen back to what happened. Out of this raw musical reaction to the film we find our themes, and melodies, inspiration for pacing, mood, and leitmotifâ??s for specific characters and action. We weed out what doesnâ??t work, and expand on what does, all the while collaborating and filling in gaps with new material and honing the soundtrack down to fit absolutely every editing point and emotional characteristic of the film. It is important for us that the soundtrack never get in the way of the film, but rather strengthen the action of what is happening.
Why do you think there is such a public fascination with the film version of Nosferatu?
J: Bram Stokerâ??s novel â??Draculaâ? was a huge success, and introduced the folk legend vampire character to a world audience. Cinema has always had great success in turning popular books into films that people want to see. The power of film in this case is in bringing peopleâ??s imaginations to life. Nosferatu was successful because it really frightened people.
Nosferatu is known for its dedicated fans, and is actually hailed as the first film to have a dedicated cult following. Why do you think that is?
J: I believe it developed a huge cult following for two reasons. Max Schrek became the benchmark for how the Dracula character looks and acts. Grotesque ears, fangs, and fingernails, plus a slow and brooding evil that scares with a look just as much as with a terrible deed. Max Schrekâ??s portrayal brought hypnotic power to the character. So audiences loved this film for Schrekâ??s particular version of Dracula. Secondly, the family of Bram Stoker successfully sued the filmmakers for copyright infringement and a court ordered that the master negative and all of the copies be destroyed. But, illegal copies remained and were shown throughout Europe and America. Banned or illegal works of art are always sought out for that very fact, and Nosferatu reached cult status as such.
What do you think is the appeal of live music and silent film together? They always seem to draw sellout crowds.
J: Live music for silent film is always a special event because of its rarity. The art form survived after the take over of the â??talkyâ? with screenings of silent classics with mostly improvised scores by solo pianists. Recently there has been a growth in the number of larger groups that arrange old material or compose new scores for performance with these classics. But there is only one movie theater in the world that exclusively shows silent films, so itâ??s like hearing that the Peking Opera or Russian Ballet company are coming to town. If you want to see it, you have to go now, because you have no idea when they might come back. The other reason that it is so popular is because audiences love the combination of visual and auditory art.
Do you do this every Halloween? Do people dress up?
J: Weâ??ve played a live soundtrack to a classic silent horror film every Halloween since 2003. Many people get dressed up for these shows. The last two years we performed at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston MA, and both times there was a costume contest.
Do you have high expectations for the New York Crowd? Why the Village East cinemas?
J: We have high hopes for this event. This is a perfect Halloween show. NYCâ??s chance to see one of the original horror films with a new score designed to make your pulse race and scare you so much that you will spill your popcorn all over the floor. If you come to this event you are guaranteed to be surrounded by a room full of Halloween revelers gasping in surprise, white knuckling in suspense, and laughing in relief. We felt the need to approach Village East Cinema because of its non-traditional programming, central location, and its 350-seat capacity. We think this will be a show to remember.
NOSFERATU plays one night on Wednesday, October 31 at 7:30 and 9:30pm. Visit www.movietickets.com to purchase advanced tickets.