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Jackie Beckey and Jonathan Kaiser Score A Silent Film: The Phantom Carriage

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - 7:00pm

In the intimate setting of ASI’s historic Ballroom, musical artists Jackie Beckey and Jonathan Kaiser perform an original live score for the 1921 Swedish silent film classic, The Phantom Carriage. Beckey (viola) and Kaiser (cello) use amplifiers and electronics with their instruments to create a hybrid style of chamber music that combines hypnotic repetition, noisy texture, and lyrical melody.  With influences ranging from folk tunes to experimental sound, their lush score to The Phantom Carriage brings this silent film alive for a contemporary audience.

An influential classic of Swedish cinema, The Phantom Carriage is a haunting Dickensian ghost story directed by Victor Sjöström. Based on a novel by Nobel LaureateSelma Lagerlöf, the film is known for its innovative special effects and sophisticated narrative devices that were ahead of its time.

Beckey and Kaiser’s collaborations have coalesced around a shared interest in live music for cinema. Their work with the bands Brute Heart, Myrrh, and Dark Dark Dark has drawn attention from the independent music world.  The composers’ debut partnership was a live score to The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari for the Walker Art Center. Recent projects include live scores to D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat at The Poor Farm (Wisc.) and Kaiser’s Flat Land Speed at the Empire Drive-In Film Festival (New York).

Beckey and Kaiser were part of a curated ensemble that contributed sound recordings and a performance to the 2013 Minnesota Biennial at the Soap Factory and to the 2014 Temporary Autonomous Museum of Contemporary Art show in Minneapolis. Beckey's composition work was supported by a 2014 grant from the Jerome Foundation and Kaiser's installation Inverse Echo was recently exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. 106 min.


Film Synopsis 

It's New Year's Eve and Salvation Army Sister Edit - on her deathbed - calls for David Holm (Victor Sjostrom). David - a drunkard and bum - is spending his night in the local graveyard, drinking and telling tales. He tells his friends the legend of Death's Driver; the last person to die each year (if he is a sinner) must drive Death's carriage for the following year. "an hour is like 100 years..."
This legend was told to him by a man he knew, Georges (Tore Svennberg); this man, in part responsible for David's decline, was mortified by the idea of dying on New Year's himself. Ironically, that is what happened. David's friends are worried but he laughs it all off as superstition and they continue carousing when one of the people sent by Sister Edit finds him..
When David is told of Sister Edit's request to see him, he refuses to go. His friends, already spooked by his telling of the legend, try to make him go see her. They get into a physical altercation that leaves David dead, just as the clock strikes midnight.
It is then that David meets Death's driver - his old friend Georges - and learns it is now his turn to drive.
What unfolds, through a series of flashbacks, is the story of David Holm's downfall and his relationship with Sister Edit over the past year - starting with their meeting last New Year's Eve when he came stumbling in to the newly built Salvation Army home looking for a bed to sleep off a drunk, her attempts to set him on the straight and narrow, and leading up to their estrangement and David's eventual death. An amazing film that is well acted, beautifully directed, and influential. Ingmar Bergman was heavily influenced by this film and watched it at least once a year, often showing it to friends and those he worked with. Many elements of his style found their genesis in this film.




$12 ASI members/$15 general public. Includes museum admission.

Registration is recommended. Click here to register or call 612-871-4907. 

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