Frank Strobel conductor
J'accuse (silent film, France 1917/1918, live music by Phillippe Schoeller, 2015)
German premiere of the reconstructed and restored version (2007)
Fri, 14 Sep 2018, 20:00
Konzerthaus Berlin, Großer Saal
In his public letter J’accuse…! (“I accuse…!”), which led to a decisive turning point in the Dreyfus Affair in 1898, Emile Zola attacked the unjust persecution of the Jewish army officer Dreyfus. When Abel Gance made his film also entitled J’accuse 20 years later, this phrase had long since become a forceful term for critical comment. Even before the ending of the First World War, in which Abel Gance’s active service was cut short due to tuberculosis, the young director had begun filming this pacifist work.
Based on the stage play Miracle à Verdun by Hans Chlumberg, Gance tells of a triangular relationship set amid the confusions of war while combining the melodrama with documentary sequences from the battlefields near Verdun. Gance filmed the film’s most famous scene – its vision of the dead coming back to life – with 2,000 French soldiers. These were about to be deployed to Verdun, which for most of the young men would mean their deaths – and as a result the filmic level meshes with a genuine war scenario in a way that is both intense and shocking.
The reconstructed and restored version of this silent film, which was begun in 2007 by Lobster Films Paris in collaboration with the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam, received its premiere in 2014 in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Philippe Schoeller composed a new score especially for the occasion in which he seeks to achieve an emotional synthesis between the eye and the ear. The music, for a large orchestra and virtual chorus, gives this powerfully visual film – that plays so artfully with camera techniques, framing and lighting – a further layer of expression and enables the orchestra to be heard in unexpected timbres.