FAUST review from the EPIGRAM,
Bristol University's Independent Student Newspaper
22 October 2007
SIlent movie, shrilling music
Film is not something you expect to be covered in a music section, a silent film less so. But FW Murnau's masterpiece, Faust, with a live score, warranted inclusion. The music was performed by University of Bristol students and other local amateur players who, as a collective, are known as COMA (Contemporary Music-Making for Amateurs). The score used in the screening in the Victoria Rooms on 13 October was composed by Jean Hasse, who is working at the University of Bristol as a teacher of composition. Hasse's score replaced the original score, composed by Werner Richard Heymann, that accompanied the official premier of Faust back in 1926.
I was aware as I sat in the great auditorium of the Victoria Rooms that I was out of my depth. I know very little about classical music and my knowledge of silent films is equally poor. Even in my ignorance, as the lights darkened and we sat in still, silent anticipation, I felt the gravitas of the event. I could feel a creeping fear seeping in, the sort you get when walking into a dark alley or into the woods at night: a sense of danger, which can only be explained by the surrounding silence and darkness.
The music cleverly fits and imitates the film. Hasse has created a score that can replace dialogue and sound effects. The orchestra beautifully recreate the sound of wind, of potions, of village merriment, and chaotic panic. I don't feel that I am watching a silent film. It is the most intense cinematic experience I have ever had.
I am not sure the music needs the film. It is powerful on its own. However, the film needs the music, and the music really needs the conductor. John Traill had his work cut out for him. The timing had to be perfect. The layering of sounds, the chord progressions, the timing, the sudden changes (as when the devil appears and the music bursts), all add to the pressure and difficulty of such an undertaking. And on the whole, it was a brilliant performance: powerful, frightening and intense, and until now I have never really understood the power of music.
- Selina Cuff