© 1924 Filmarchiv Austria

Robert Wiene: Orlacs Hände (DE 1924) - UA

Tuesday, 21 November 2023, 19.30
Klangforum Wien - Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna

The film belongs to the classics of horror cinema, part art film, part splatter film: a pianist falls into the clutches of a cunning criminal who sends the psychologically unstable artist on a horror trip, making him believe he's the murderer of his father. "ORLACS HÄNDE" (The Hands of Orlac) is excellently cast with the two silent film icons, Conrad Veidt and Fritz Kortner, the latter playing his sinister adversary, marking one of the highlights of expressionist silent cinema.

The new music, composed for a string ensemble, two pianos, and a sampler, explores the psychological development of the protagonist, exemplified by his piano, distributed across three instruments: the classical piano, a prepared piano, a sort of 'dark shadow piano,' and an electronic sampler. The foundation of the electronic sound expansion consists of percussive sounds from inside the piano, resonating with the protagonist's terrifying visions and fears. In his film music, Johannes Kalitzke works with leitmotifs in a rather traditional manner. For instance, Orlac is portrayed through the paraphrasing of a Nocturne by Chopin, which is already established in the film. Depending on the dramatic situation, this music is continually transformed like a recurring "idee fixe." Paul Orlac is an early example of a traumatized "undead" figure of his own media-driven success. Johannes Kalitzke has immersed himself in the mind and the dark spaces of Paul Orlac through the use of samples. With his music, he not only introduces today's audience to the fantastic cinematic work of Robert Wiene but also lets them experience the suggestiveness of silent film as an art form situated on the delicate balance between dreams and waking consciousness.