February 22, 2018

IU Cinema to screen silent film with live music

"I think you’ll be exposed to something unique that you would’ve likely never seen otherwise and maybe will never see again..."

Indiana Daily Student
February 22, 2018

IU Cinema hopes to offer viewers a memorable experience by bringing in live accompanists for its screening of the silent film “Our Heavenly Bodies” at 7 p.m. Thursday evening, IU Cinema’s director Jon Vickers said.

Originally released in 1925, “Our Heavenly Bodies” was directed by German filmmaker Hanns Walter Kornblum to represent the extent of human astronomical knowledge at the time and fantasize about its future, Vicker said. It is not a documentary, but a special-effects-driven science-fiction.

Vickers said Kornblum’s film is mystifying because of its groundbreaking special effects.

“It has these incredible visual effects that are, I think, pretty important for the time,” he said. “It’s ahead of its, time but it was also trying to do something unique in capturing the state of science, the state of what was known about space."

The film will screen as a part of the cinema’s ongoing Science on Screen series. Vickers said the series spotlights films of all types that engage with scientific ideas in interesting ways.

He said the idea to screen the film was first entertained when a Nashville, Tennessee band called Coupler approached the Cinema about screening the film. 

“The band contacted us asking if we’d be interested in presenting it,” Vickers said. “We dug into it, and it’s a fascinating film.”

Coupler will be present at Thursday's screening of the film to accompany the silent feature with live music.

Ryan Norris, a member of Coupler, said the group was initially commissioned to compose an original score for the film by the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee. The film was screened by the Belcourt as part of a similarly-themed science series.

“What really stands out to me is what they were able to do with the special effects at the time,” Norris said of the film. “It obviously looks kind of crude to modern eyes, but considering when they were doing this stuff, a lot of it looks cool and weird and unlike a lot of other stuff that you’d see from the time.” 

Norris said the band tried to compose a score for the film that was varied and moody.

“Some of it’s pretty quiet and minimal, some of it is kind of rhythmic and pulsating,” he said.

The band also experiments with different vibes through improvisation, Norris said.

“We improvise a lot — a fair amount of it is composed already, but within that we play around a lot,” he said.

Norris said the opportunity to see a film with a live accompaniment is incredible, and it should not be missed.

“I think it’s a really cool audiovisual experience,” Norris said.

 The incorporation of contemporary electronic and ambient sounds into an old silent film creates a unique interplay between modernity and classicism, Norris said.  

“It’s this interesting thing that kind of spans almost a century, this old film with this new music,” he said. “It makes the whole experience a lot more modern.”

Vickers said viewers can expect something really special from the screening.

“I think you’ll be exposed to something unique that you would’ve likely never seen otherwise and maybe will never see again,” he said.

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