Metropolis, Nosferatu & South w/the Alloy Orchestra

Oct 4, 2000 at 12:00 am
Silent film was conceived with sound in mind. Though it often plays second fiddle to the image, sound makes movie magic, suggesting place, time and mood. This weekend, the three-man Alloy Orchestra will make that magic live, hammering it from an assemblage of found objects and electronics as they accompany three silent classics: Metropolis (1926), Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horrors (1922) and South (1919).

South ‘s epic survival story shames the petty melodrama of TV’s "Survivor" series. Twenty-eight men board the ship Endurance and set out to explore Antarctica. The ship’s name proves to be apt: Stranded on the ice, the crew and their sled dogs survive for two years until they are rescued. Cinematographer Frank Hurley artfully documents this quiet drama of true grace under pressure in a journal of moving pictures supplemented by beautiful still photographs and illustrations.

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horrors is director F.W. Murnau’s stark, moving picture book of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Screenwriter Henrik Galeen essentializes Stoker’s novel into a grim fairy tale without stakes or neck biting. Nosferatu is the silver screen’s most grotesque and seminal vampire. His mere presence is contagion and only a heroine pure in heart can break his spell.

Metropolis is an epic fable of class struggle. In the year 2026, the world is divided into a proletariat which lives in Underground City and a ruling class which lives in lofty Metropolis. Maria (Brigitte Helm) is leader of a clandestine, quasireligious resistance movement of workers who await the advent of a chosen one whose heart will mediate between the minds of Metropolis and the hands of the Underground City. Fritz Lang’s story and direction are sumptuously mythic and stylish. If you can only see one film of the series, make this the one.

Though the films are worth the price of admission alone, it’s the Alloy Orchestra that makes this weekend an event. It may seem either grandiose or ironic to call a three-man ensemble an orchestra, but the name suits the sounds it creates. Listen to it forge the magic into these movies. It’s an experience not to be missed.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].