Digging through cinema’s grave

Troupe of Winnipeg creatives bring old films to life

Winnipeg musicians and artists are collaborating to perform live scores for classic films Nosferatu, Metropolis and The Bride of Frankenstein.

Quietly, the loss of dead films haunts the world. Three-quarters of silent films and 90 per cent of films made before 1929 are estimated to be lost, according to Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

But on Feb. 16, a select few that stood the test of time will be revived by a small group of Winnipeg artists at the Park Theatre. Presented by concert series Local Jukebox and illustrator GMB Chomichuk, Love You to Death will screen a trio of silent films to an original, live soundtrack.

“Technology is at a place now where we have reclaimed these elements that were not available to go back and watch,” Chomichuk, a co-producer of the festival, says.

With Valentine’s Day romance and horror in its namesake, Love You to Death revolves around the theme of falling in love with the monster.

When guests enter the Park Theatre, they’ll pick a card from the mysterious “seance table,” leading them to a surprise. The program continues with 20-minute selections from Metropolis (1927) Nosferatu (1922) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

“They’re really new movies, made out of the bones of old movies that we dug up and stuck back together,” Chomichuk says.

The idea for the project was spurred when Chomichuk reached out to his friend Joey Senft about bringing silent films to life. Senft, a music photographer by trade, rounded up a group of local talent to accompany the films.

The band features Keri Latimer on theremin, Natanielle Felicitas on cello, Rusty Robot on drums and keys and Rafael Reyes on the guitar.

Felicitas describes being asked to join the band as “a teenage dream come true.”

“When I was 16, a band did a live scoring of Nosferatu, and I just fell in love and thought ‘oh, I would love to do this someday,’” Felicitas says. “Then I get this call from Joey, and I was like, there we go. Dreams do come true, even if it’s 25 years later.”

The group purposefully refrained from studying the original scores. Instead, they chose individual characters to emulate and dreamt up their own unique soundtrack.

“Everybody is so skilled that usually one person has a really great idea for a part. One person’s instrument will capture the character or the emotion of that section that we’re trying to get at,” Latimer says.

In a way, it creates a dialogue between the living and the dead – that is, the film and the musicians.

“We are collaborating with the film itself. We’re aware that the audience needs to see this as a whole piece. We don’t want the music to detract from the visual. It needs to just enhance it,” Felicitas says.

The films are sure to haunt viewers beyond the event, but Chomichuk says that’s been the case for generations.

“These three films in particular, I think, have haunted public consciousness without its knowledge for a century,” Chomichuk says. “Whether or not you know it, those influences have reverberated through cinema.”

Love You to Death plays at the Park Theatre on the evening of Feb. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased via bit.ly/3X05Z8p.

Published in Volume 77, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 9, 2023)

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