Special screening during the Retrospective of the 57th Berlin International Film Festival

Saturday, February 10, 2007, 8 p.m.
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz


A silent film with Asta Nielsen
Germany 1920/21, directed by: Svend Gade, Heinz Schall
Premiere of the rediscovered, newly restored color version
World premiere of a new film score by Michael Riessler (2007)
Michael Riessler will perform with an ensemble of soloists
A joint project of the Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF, Frankfurt/Main, and ZDF in cooperation with ARTE.


Tickets: 19 euros / 15 euros.

The restoration

In fall 2005, a purchase made by the Deutsches Filminstitut – DIF included a vintage print of HAMLET, the version first shown in German cinemas. Until this precious find, only one English-language distribution print had been known to exist and it was distributed and promoted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In Germany, it was only available through the DIF. The newly discovered nitrate print had intertitles in German which matched the wording in the censors’ record from November 10, 1920. As was customary in the early 20th century, the film had been shot on black-and-white negative stock; the positive was colored afterwards using a variety of polychrome procedures. This original German-language distribution version, which nobody had believed had survived, has now been restored by the Deutsches Filminstitut. This vintage nitrate print includes 2051 meters of the original 2367 meters presented to the board of censors. Missing intertitles as well as some of the opening credits and part titles were reconstructed based on the censors’ record found in the Bundesarchiv – Filmarchiv in Berlin. Missing or damaged image material in the German original were supplanted by images from an original French distribution print in the possession of the Archives Françaises du Film du Centre National de la Cinématographie since 1996. A comparison of these two vintage prints revealed that the dramaturgical aspects of their color schemes are practically identical. The German original displays higher contrasts, greater densities and sharper focus, while the French material is at times out of focus and exhibits lesser densities, though a better gray scale. The German positive shows more signs of use, in particular, more scratches and running lines. The photochemical restoration was realized by Haghefilm Conservation in Amsterdam. A black-and-white negative was printed using wet gate, and the required sequences from the French version inserted into it. The positive was struck on color film from the negative by means of the Desmet method: the simulation of historical colors was achieved in two printer passes; the goal was to emulate the colors of the first distribution print run in Germany. This meant correcting the discoloration and fading found in the source material. In order to guarantee adequate colour representation, the three stencil-colored scenes were digitally processed and then recorded back onto colour stock. Subsequently these shots had to be edited into each positive print.


The music

For Michael Riessler, HAMLET – with Asta Nielsen who is brilliantly versatile in her reinterpretation of this classic role – is, first and foremost, great cinema. Michael Riessler developed his score from the depths of this figure who perceives the world as a nightmare come true. The character which Asta Nielsen created was, in those days, a lonely one. The music responds to this with a language of sounds that mediates between different epochs and refrains from superficial historicism: archaic sounds from nature combine with electronically-generated material; two historical instruments, the nyckelharpa and the barrel organ, enter into dialogue with music pre-produced by the ensemble. Each of the instruments to be played during the live performance is recorded in advance and mixed into a recording that is to be played back and accompanied live by the musicians during the screening – soloistic, improvising voices which comment on and refine the sound. This new score by Michael Riessler was realized in close collaboration with “Lisma Project”, an experimental duo from Italy consisting of composer and cellist Enrico Melozzi, and DJ and electronic musician Stefano de Angelis. It was with their support that Michael Riessler conceived what was to be pre-recorded (under the technical direction of Federico Savina, sound engineer and consultant for Sergio Leone, Nino Rota and Ennio Morricone) for playback during live performances of the music.


Michael Riessler – a short portrait

Born in Ulm in 1957, composer and clarinetist Michael Riessler unites improvisation and composition, language and sound, music and dance. After studying clarinet at the Academies of Music in Cologne and Hanover, he became a member of the ensemble “Musique Vivante” in Paris. This was where he met musicians like Vinko Globokar, Michel Portal, Diego Masson and Jean-Pierre Drouet, personalities who had a lasting impact on him as an instrumentalist and composer. Chamber music concerts followed with Siegfried Palm and Aloys Kontarsky (1982) as well as performances with diverse ensembles that focused on improvisation. Since the early 1990s, he has written music for both radio and film. As someone who enjoys walking the line between new music and jazz, he strives to transcend the boundaries of musical genres in ever changing constellations. He has collaborated with many composers, including Mauricio Kagel, John Cage, Steve Reich, Helmut Lachenmann, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and many musicians, including David Byrne, Carla Bley, Terry Bozzio, as well as with writer Urs Widmer and dancer Nigel Charnock. He has written works and recorded CDs commissioned by the Donaueschinger Musiktage: “Héloise” (1992), “Momentum Mobile” (1993); and the Musik Biennale Berlin: “Honig und Asche” (1997), “Orange” (2000), “Ahi Vita” (2004). He has received the German Record Critics’ Award (“Héloise”), the SWF Jazz Award and the Schneider Schott Prize (“Der Steppenwolf”).


The musicians

Clarinets: Michael Riessler. Cello: Enrico Melozzi. Nyckelharpa: Marco Ambrosini. Live-electronics and percussion: Stefano de Angelis. Playback: Federico Savina (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Rome) and Lisma Project.

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