Oct. 03, 2012 - Issue #885: Fall Style 2012
Staking a claim on the past
A classic Canadian silent film gets a sound-and-Shakespeare reworking
New life is being given to a Canadian silent-screen gem through a multidisciplinary remix of music, film and theatre.
The commission, by the Yukon Film Society to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Available Light Film Festival this past February, is touring across western Canada to pay tribute to The Grub-Stake director Nell Shipman, an iconoclast of the silent film era.
The film was shot in 1923 and tells the story of a young girl who makes her way to the Klondike during the 1898 gold rush in search of love and prosperity, but these dreams are derailed when she discovers that greed and villainy run the show in Dawson City. However, the film was never distributed, as the distributor went bankrupt.
Now, decades later, Whitehorse-based composer filmmaker Daniel Janke has created The Grub-Stake Revisited, complete with a musical score performed live at each theatre by the Longest Night Ensemble, as well as a cast of voice actors who bring the on-screen characters to life with re-imagined Shakespearean text.
"The story in the original Shipman film is very much an archetypical story of, you know, a young woman rising above the oppression that she experiences in life and making good ... it sort of cross the lines and boundaries of so many Shakespearean comedies and tragedies," Janke explains of the decision to use extracted Shakespearean dialogue to drive the story.
The script draws on the gamut of the Bard's works, and acts as a substitute for the title cards that were used to break up the action in silent films and help the audience understand what was going on. However, Janke notes the script only changed small details while leaving the original story arch intact.
"It's like a third eye kind of approach to the film. I keep coming back to the idea of layers. What you have is an old language of silent film in the way the actors move and they relate to the camera and they do all that independent of the titles ... so you have this language, which is a very dated language of silent film—which is wonderful—but then you have an even older language of Shakespeare that tells this story in parallel," Janke explains. "The third language of course is the music score that drives the whole thing."
Fri, Oct 5, 2012 (7 pm)
Metro Cinema at the Garneau, $25
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