Monday nights in Canberra are usually pretty uneventful, but last night, the Devil came to town. No not Tony, the other one. As part of the Audi German Film Festival, orchestrated by the Goethe Institute, Palace Electric in New Acton screened the classic F.W. Murnau film, Faust (1926) with a live score performed by German Sound Artist, Thomas Köner.
Köner has worked in sound art and installation for many years, and has collaborated with contemporary acts including Nine Inch Nails–or NIN, for those of you who are well acquainted with industrial rock acronyms. His silent-era film and modern-day sound hybrid expression was beheld by 80 people who braved sub-zero temperatures to bear witness to this cinematic cacophony.
Murnau’s interpretation of Faust, in which a man forsakes God to shake hands with Satan in exchange for eternal youth, is probably the most legendary portrayal of this tale in film. Faust was one of the first films to have its own score in big production symphonic terms, but last night this original score by Werner Richard Heymann was relegated to the cutting room floor to make way for a sonic re-imagining.
At the end of the film, just as the lights came on, a distinguished gentleman stood up and purposefully walked down the stairs to sit closer to Thomas Köner. This man had a mission and I suspected he was a Faust Purist. When it was time for questions from the audience, he was the first to raise his hand. “That was the greatest cinematic experience of my long life. Your score was breath-taking”. This made for a good day for Köner.
As an artist, Thomas Köner has his own hopes and intentions. Creating an illustrative ‘soundtrack’ to Faust, or any film for that matter, is not one of them. Instead, he speaks about the space between the ‘moving pictures’ and ‘the sound’. The space between is where the art is made. “Eyes and ears do not meet on the screen but rather in the room itself”. Reflecting on the evening, Thomas Köner said his collaboration on Faust will endure for “one night only and not an eternity. A celebration of us all together tonight. Doing this.” Amen.
The Audi German Film Festival runs for two more nights at Palace Electric NewActon