“J'accuse” by Abel Gance with live music
Wien Modern starts with "J'accuse" by Abel Gance with live soundtrack by Philippe Schoeller, performed by Wiener Symphoniker.
Filmstill J'accuse / Philippe Schoeller © Franck Ferville, Abel Gance Filmstill, Montage Pentagram Berlin
You certainly can’t accuse Abel Gance of minimalism: The director, screenplay writer, producer and actor, who was born in Paris in 1889, wrote cinematic history with his visionary projects: La Roue is eight hours in length, Napoléon only six, but requires three screens side by side. His first silent film, which has since become a classic, lasts (like Toni Erdmann) a mere two and three quarter hours, which vertitably fly by.
J’accuse (I accuse) oscillates between romance, drama, action, horror and «embedded journalism». Gance succeeded in securing a filming permit at battle scenes – without letting on to the military that the story of jealousy turns into an indictment of war. It was filmed between the summer of 1918 and March 1919 at sites such as the battlefields of Saint-Mihiel near Verdun, with soldiers who returned to the front when filming was over. The elaborate restoration (by EYE Amsterdam & Lobster Paris) really gets under your skin, not least thanks to the music of Philippe Schoeller, who will be responsible for the electronic parts in the performance in Vienna: «The living marched past, heads full of music», armies march snappily through Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
But the music guides our gaze towards the pictures in our heads, even before – in a daring split-screen shot, a zombie army of dead soliders arises to bring the madness of war to an end. A milestone of cinematic history, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra performing the gripping live soundtrack.
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