GHOSTLY figures from the front line, accidentally psychedelic visuals created by deteriorating 100-year-old film and the often brilliantly manic performance of the Kronos string quartet made this one of the most strangely powerful shows of this year’s International Festival.
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FESTIVAL THEATRE, NICOLSON STREET
Never seen before by modern audiences, the rediscovered footage has been digitally preserved by filmmaker Bill Morrison and while some of it is beyond repair there are still some startling images, in particular the crash in what looks like an authentic aerial dogfight and a stunning biplane bomber formation. Extensive footage of German troops in their pickelhaube is a reminder that the enemy were humans too.
The perished nitrate film stock means the pictures are obscured and in some cases obliterated but the distortions enhance both a sense of ghostliness and discovery.
The crisp playing of the Kronos Quartet was centre stage for the first half, performing works by Stravinsky, Ravel and Rachmaninov amongst others. But such was the power of the filmshow imagery in the second period, it was easy to forget the frenetic score of composer Aleksandra Vrebalov was being performed live.
This is one of those extraordinary shows which deserved more than one performance and could be a signature of a festival themed on conflict.