“Hemlock Smith” plays “Sir Arne’s Treasure”
To associate modern music with silent film has become trendy lately. Yet, in most projects that cover this area, electronical music is used, computer-generated, to allow high efficiency and precision, placing the effects right where you want them. In other cases, already existing songs are used to sustain the original material ; very often, those songs are therefore only loosely related to the story being told on the screen. Hemlock Smith, a musical collective from Lausanne/Switzerland, is proud to present a project that introduces 106 minutes of new and original music, played absolutely live and written especially for this film. The goal ist to create a bridge between popular music and modern Art, and this 1919 production certainly falls into that category.
The Band :
Hemlock Smith is a « Pop » Band, and this is a noble thing. Their songs are very serious because they carry a lot of « content », but they’re arranged with a light foot and easy to digest.
To accompany a masterwork from the silent era is a new milestone for the group, one that allows them to widen their musical horizon after the excellently received first two albums (« a secret life » 2002 / « umbrella fitz & gerald » 2006).
To make sure that musical barriers are quite effectively broken, the collective decided to invite two fantastic guest musicians, coming from Jazz and the Musical, therefore forcing the Band to rethink their sound completely and to include new musical styles.
The Film : Sir Arne’s Treasure (Mauritz Stiller, Sweden, 1919)
This production takes a very special place in silent movie history. It’s one of the first films to be shot with a mobile camera and showcases outdoor scenery in a very unfriendly nature, scandinavian winter.
The acting is also quite extraordinary for the times ; the subtle and discreet nature of the Swedes prevents them from using the usual clichés of « overacting » that were extremely current in this era. In many ways, you’re presented with a very modern film, way ahead of its times.
Even the story, almost a Greek tragedy actually, holds a special interest. All characters are tortured by great moral dilemmas and will be crushed by their weight. The great swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf has written a timeless story that, even if the setting is in the 16th century, is resolutely modern and allows, almost demands, great musical freedom.
The Book : Herr Arnes Pengar (Selma Lagerlöf, 1904)
Selma Lagerlöf wrote this short novel during a break while she conceived her masterwork « Nils Holgersson ». As always, she uses a technique where she weaves modern concepts into old legends and tales from her native Sweden. In this case, « Sir Arne’s Treasure » is a morality tale as well as a ghost story, as a phantom has the role of carrying the very strong moral message.
German critics felt that this was probably one of the most excellently constructed and well written stories Lagerlöf ever told. Even though the suspense is quite « killing » in the end, The book has not been reprinted in western european countries for several decades ; it’s absolutely unfindable in English. One of the goals of this project is therefore also to make this story known for a 21st century audience.