Nosferatu @ Prince Charles Cinema

A Sympnony of Horror - And Beauty


 A long queue hugged the left-hand side of Prince Charles theatre, Leicester Square, in a sold out screening (with live music) of Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the film's release and, as The Artist walked away with 5 Oscars, no wonder silent films are a big deal for more people than their usual dedicated fanbase.
Prince Charles Cinema, with it's luscious burgundy red ambiance-which, in this case, could hide a few splatter connotations if, like some people, you let your imagination run wild-, didn't need a lot of help to get the mood going.
The Minima quartet - bass, electric guitar, cello and drums - took their place in a low-rise stage in front of the screen, with most people, unfortunately, having a hard time spotting them; but the music was impossible to ignore. A beautifully imposing, crystal clear sound wandered away since moment one of F. W. Murnau's expressionist horror tale - based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, but with changed names, as the production remained unauthorised.
Silent films or not, there's accompanying music that chooses to boost the heroes choices, passions and dilemmas; and there's music that creeps in (or strums wild) and takes a role all of its own.
Minima decided to go for the latter.
Unlikely a lot of other silent films with live music I've seen (including Louis,, and Man With A Movie Camera, at The Barbican), I got the impression that these guys feel a much bigger part of the on-screen action than most.
They added a sense of... horror, humour, imagination and details-like a genius sonic translation of a man falling into the sea, that made the movie uncannily tangible.
The audience was in the presence of a full-blown work of art. And though you can't judge which of the two sides works best (you definitely don't want the band to impose on the film too much), they are both welcome, as long as musicians know how to respect the balance.
Nosferatu is, in itself, a daring creation, and it only takes a daring soundtrack to live up to its virtues.
In all irony, these four daredevils come wrapped up in delicious melody, cleverly softening those sharp vampire edges (what could very well be a metaphor for a tad difficult, and occasionally boring 1920's big-screen creation), while keeping all the excitement intact.

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