Carl Theodor Dreyer Vampyr (1932) + Live Score & Competition

On Thursday 20th February 2014, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr Der Traum des Allan Gray (1932) will be screened at Watershed, Bristol with a brand new score by Paul Robinson, performed live on stage by contemporary music ensemble HarmonieBand.

After the release of La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc in 1927, Dryer turned his intentions to what would become his first foray into sound, he would end up making one of cinema’s great nightmares.

Adapted from Gothic stories by Sheridan Le Fanu; Vampyr is a disturbing narrative of vampirism, obsession and possession of the soul. The story follows Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) a young man who arrives in a remote village ruled by the undead. Profoundly unsettling and surreal, full of rolling fogs and mist, scythes and creepy echoes, Dreyer immerses you in a world of shadowy beings and deathly visions that exist somewhere between dreams and reality.

Deemed by Alfred Hitchcock ‘the only film worth watching… twice’, Vampyr’s influence has become, by now, incalculable.

And we are happy to say that we not only have two tickets to give away in our competition (more info below) but the comoposer for this new score, Paul Robinson has also allowed us to share his thought on scoring for Dreyer’s masterpiece.

Scoring ‘Vampyr’ by Paul Robinson

The freedom that scoring any silent film affords a composer is to be able to occupy the entire soundtrack uninterrupted by dialogue, other soundtrack elements, or suggestions from the Director. In this sense the approach can be operatic – associating themes or ‘tones of voice’ with characters or psychological states- and using the memory of these elements to bind the narrative into a subliminal entity.

The main psychological states in Dreyer’s ‘Vampyr’ appear to be a kind of delirium, sometimes benign to the point of simple mindedness, at others ill at ease or even traumatic.

For the benign version I found a kind of soft ‘tolling’ sound on the piano with notes doubled and pulled out of the chords like melted cheese. This is heard at the very opening of my score and at various points in the film where text is being read to remind the characters of times past.

The more traumatic passages in the film employ the darker registers of the viola and bass clarinet with rhythmically unsettled melodic lines over ‘revelatory’ harmony (the kind found in Stravinsky’s early Ballet scores and Messiaen’s music of the 30’s and 40’s)

Since the soundtrack is sequenced, I took the opportunity to use some sound effects lifted from the sound version Dreyer made of this film: crows crowing, baby gurgles and the ratchet of the flour mill at the climax of the film.
Paul Robinson 2014

Win 2 Tickets for Vampyr (1932) + Live Score

To win tickets for this screening of Vampyr all you need to do is answer the following question:

Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in which city?

Simply email the answer to bristolsilents@gmail.com with ‘Vampyr Tickets’ in the subject header by the afternoon on Sunday 16th February 2014. The lucky winner will then be announced later that evening and we will email the winner soon afterwards. Please note that the tickets are not refundable.

Good Luck! See you in the village of the undead!


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  1. #1 by C & B Canvin on February 23, 2014 - 1:23 pm

    We’ve been fans for ages, and come to the silent movie screenings and other events etc…but can’t work out from the website how to become a member (£5 a year according to the postcard we picked up) ….. what am I doing wrong?

    • #2 by Bristol Silents on February 24, 2014 - 12:29 am

      Hi there. That’s very odd – we stopped doing the membership scheme ages ago so I’m surprised it was on one of our postcards. I presume it’s a Bristol Silents postcard? Where did you pick it up from out of curiosity?

  2. #3 by C & B Canvin on March 7, 2014 - 8:25 pm

    The watershed when Vampyr was on. We’d seen earlier that the tickets may have been cheaper for Bristol Silents members, so we were wondering how to become a formal member….then saw the postcard….then came tried to find the link. So how do we become a member then (in case there are discounts in the future?) Thanks

    • #4 by Bristol Silents on March 8, 2014 - 7:50 am

      It was on a postcard you picked up from at watershed when Vampyr was on AND you’d seen it somewhere else earlier? Was it definitely our literature or might it have been Watersheds? I’ll have to look into this – it’s entirely possible that on one’s told watershed that we abandoned the membership scheme many years ago!

      • #5 by C & B Canvin on March 10, 2014 - 6:43 am

        It’s a postcard with a female robot, it has Bristol Silents on it and it says “Don’t be like her – Join Bristol Silents today!”. I was wondering whether it was part of all the stuff they had put out for slapstick that was still there. It was the ledge with leaflets etc in the area outside the loos, under one of the TV screens.

  3. #6 by C & B Canvin on March 10, 2014 - 6:45 am

    On the front it has Bristol Silents logo, but on the back it has the logos of Bristol Silents, Slapstick & Watershed., but Bristol Silents website for contact and register.

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