Cirkestra and The Unknown

Cirkestra and The Unknown
Cirkestra and The Unknown

Last night we went to a show at the Brattle Theater, in Cambridge. After several misguided attempts, we finally figured out where the entrance is. If you go there, the theater entrance is on the left side of the building, just to the right of the box office. All other doors somehow seemed to lead to food. Isn’t that frequently the case in my life? We saw a screening of The Unknown, a silent film from the 1920’s. This was my first time seeing a silent film. I was quietly containing my excitement.

The movie focuses on the lives of several circus members, most notably that of Alonzo the armless, Nanon the beautiful girl, and Malabar the strongman. Nanon has a great fear of men’s hands. It is a fear that causes her to shrink in horror and is founded on her beauty, which makes all men want to grab her. The movie has a strange and somewhat twisted plot, which I won’t give away. I suggest you try to see it. What I really suggest is that you see it somewhere with live music, as it was meant to be shown, and as I had the pleasure of enjoying it. This particular screening had a live performance by Cirkestra. I had reviewed a concert a few weeks back where they were one of the bands performing; when I saw a listing for this event, I was excited to see them a second time.

Cirkestra composed an original score for this movie. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend that you try to see this particular combination of The Unknown and Cirkestra. The live music sounded so much better than the usual music soundtrack we are familiar with at a theater. It enhanced the activities on screen, and yet, it did not detract from, overwhelm, or give away the movie in any way. Going in, I thought that it might be a concert with a movie in the background. It was really a movie with a live soundtrack, as a silent film is meant to be shown. I could imagine this circus-style music as being part of the original distribution of the movie, as they meshed so seamlessly. At a Q&A period afterward, the band leader clarified that no original score was distributed with this particular movie. So seeing the film in those days created a new experience each time. I wish more movies were made this way today. It creates a level of interpretation and interaction between the viewer and the movie that does not exist with the modern movie.

I am still thinking about the macabre ending and the lilting music.

Related post: Cirkestra and Over a Cardboard Sea – I “saw” the band



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