Hauschka Vs. Carl Dreyer's Vampyr

Carl Dreyer's 1932 classic Vampyr became the first movie screened in Cork's newly reopened Christ Church last night with an original soundtrack performed live from the altar by German pianist and composer, Hauschka.

Hauschka, born Volker Bertelmann, politely introduced the night with a little backstory of how he was asked a few years ago to provide a soundtrack to a number of movies but that it was Carl Dreyer's masterpiece (deemed by Alfred Hitchcock "the only film worth watching… twice" ) that moved him most.

To be honest it took me about five/ten minutes to adapt to the performance, an Irish-exclusive, as I alternated my attention from the sounds created by the German composer and actually concentrating on the movie itself. Once I eventually relaxed and settled into the mood the next ninety minutes or so would be well worth the slight mental discomfort briefly experienced.

Hauschka's piano and eerie effects build as Allan Gray, the hero of the movie, arrives at an inn (situated near the town of Courtempierre) to be disturbed in his room late that night by an old man who bares both a warning and a package with the words "To be opened upon my death" inscribed upon it. For those of you who have not seen the movie before (and because this is mostly a music blog!) I will end my synopsis here to avoid ruining future viewings.

All I can say is that it is no wonder the movie regularly appears on Best-of-all-time lists and that Carl Dreyer is considered by many to be one of the greatest directors ever to live. It would surprise me if people back in the thirties were not terrified at the time of Vampyr's original release as Dreyer's master storytelling and supernatural skill over the manipulation of shadows are second-to-none.

It says alot that a vampire movie with no fangs, minimal blood and barely even a vampire (this is not Twilight) has now cemented itself as my favourite in the genre and possibly one of the best "cinema" experiences I have ever had. Obviously the impact of the movie was heightened by Hauschka himself who quickly became part of the movie rather than simply remaining an external force. The venue, the musician and the movie itself combined to create another resounding success for the Triskel and bodes well for the Arthouse/World Cinema that begins this Sunday (May 22nd) with a free screening of 2010's Potiche (starring Catherine Deneuve and GĂ©rard Depardieu).

An encore of "Taxi Taxi" from this years Salon Des Amateurs and "Ping Pong" (which included emptying a bag of ping-pong balls into his open top piano), although odd to shout for an encore after watching a feature-length movie (my friend wondered aloud if he would reappear to play the soundtrack to Vampyr II) ended the night on a high. Exiting into the moonlight through the large front-doors of a church felt like a fitting end to watching a vampire movie on a Sunday night.