Music for a saint

DREYER. The raw power of "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" has inspired Portishead and Goldfrapp members Adrian Utley and Will Gregory to create a brand new score for Dreyer's silent masterpiece, performed live 7 May in Bristol. Listen to a few musical fragments in a short documentary following the two composers at work.

The unique collaboration between the two renowned musicians was set off by their desire to score a silent film.

Serious aesthetic position

"Out of an exhaustive list, Jeanne d'Arc was by far the best. No creaky plot, no melodrama, no weak moments or dated gestures,2 the artists explain. "It's unbelievable the amount of care expended on all aspects of the production: casting, lighting design and script. Plus, the text is taken verbatim from the trial records … a really serious aesthetic position for the foundation of a film about Joan of Arc."

As the two musicians explain, the film’s long takes have their own advantage. "The film is presented in long scenes that allow the momentum of set musical pieces to build up and follow their own logic, without being perpetually shackled to jerky editing and plot inter-cutting that make so many silent films an unrewarding undertaking for a composer," Utley and Gregory say.

Emotional conversation

The new score premiered at a one-off event at Colston Hall in Bristol on 7 May, where the film was accompanied live by a group of musicians counting Utley and Gregory, six electric guitars, a choir, percussion, horns and keyboards.

"Our aim is to provide a narrative that supports the film but also has a life of its own and can stand back from a distance as well as get right inside the moment. In short, engage the audience in an emotional conversation that hopefully mirrors their own inner dialogue as they watch."

Adrian Utley and Will Gregory’s score is a singular addition to an already vast list of musical pieces created for Dreyer’s final silent film. Celebrating the opening of the new website on the Danish auteur, the Cinematheque in Copenhagen launched in May a series with ten Jeanne d’Arc screenings, each accompanied by live music ranging from classical piano over folk jazz to cool electronica.

See short documentary with Adrian Utley, Will Gregory and conductor Charles Hazlewood discussing their work on "Jeanne d'Arc".
Read about the live event in Bristol 7 Maj, organised by Watershed. 
Read about the DFI Cinematheque's 10 x Jeanne d'Arc with musical accompaniment (Danish only).

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