List Film

Faust screened with new score by Alex Smoke

1926 silent film's new score performed by The Scottish Ensemble

Faust with Alex Smoke

At 85 years old, director FW Murnau’s Faust remains one of the most visually arresting films in the history of world cinema. Murnau’s last German production divided contemporary audiences and lost a lot of studio money with its retelling of the 400-year-old fable when it was released in 1926. However, Faust’s stunning imagery and groundbreaking special effects have ensured the silent film has only gained in potency. Its lack of a soundtrack provided Glasgow’s Alex Smoke the perfect opportunity to ‘bring the film into the light of a new century’.

Smoke, a musician/composer best known for minimal techno (Soma, Hum+Haw), has short shrift for purists who would have the score reflect the performance practices of the 1920s. ‘That’s absolute bullshit, as far I’m concerned,’ he says. ‘Murnau was a massive risk-taker, a real pushing-at-the-envelope kind of guy and I think the idea of just slavishly sticking to the 1920s format is crazy, almost.’

Smoke’s new score meshes classical orchestration – performed by the Scottish Ensemble – with sound design that subtly underscores the story’s modern relevance. The results are refreshingly apposite; the portentous, droning strings and electronic beats perfectly complementing the jittery, chiaroscuro images.

Nothing will be performed live, however – such is the complexity of the parts, it would be ‘technically impossible’. Regardless, Smoke prefers it to be a purely cinematic experience. ‘I didn’t want to make it gimmicky,’ he says. ‘I’d rather just have the music playing and people watching the film and forget about the other aspects and just enjoy it as a whole.’

Glasgow Film Theatre, Fri 18 Feb


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