Ellen Arkbro | organ | The Phantom Carriage
The realm of silent horror cinema, shrouded in fog and deep darkness, has the power to send shivers down your spine. Victor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage stands as a masterclass in atmosphere-driven cinema, featuring visionary and unsettling imagery. The film unfolds the story of David, a violence-prone alcoholic (portrayed by the director himself), whose demise coincides with the striking of midnight on New Year’s Eve. According to Swedish legend, for the ensuing year, he must serve as Death’s coachman, guiding souls to the afterlife. On April 9, 2024, as part of Timeless Film Festival Warsaw, Ellen Arkbro will present her specially commissioned composition for organ at the Warsaw Philharmonic, offering a fresh and original interpretation of the 1921 metaphysical horror film. This exceptional evening marks the first opportunity in several decades to witness a silent film accompanied by live organ music in Warsaw.
The Phantom Carriage navigates viewers through the valleys of the uncanny, employing pioneering special effects and multiple exposures that make characters, ghosts, and specters overlap and coexist in the same space. The boundary between life and death becomes almost imperceptible as disembodied shapes immerse the audience in a melancholy and at times eerie dream. Shot at the pinnacle of Swedish silent cinema, the impeccably crafted story unfolds mainly in the studio, allowing for unprecedented experiments with image and light. The Phantom Carriage serves as an evocative morality tale of redemption and mercy, dressed in the black robes of a grim reaper.
Ellen Arkbro, a prominent Swedish minimalist and virtuoso organist, will deliver a musical performance for a film that has continued to inspire artists and directors for more than a century. Renowned filmmakers such as Carl Th. Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman, and even Stanley Kubrick in The Shining have affirmed through their works that they could not escape the spectral power of The Phantom Carriage.
Ellen Arkbro, a sound artist, organist, and composer based in Berlin, originally from Stockholm, has showcased her music at esteemed venues such as the Barbican in London, Kölner Philharmonie, Serralves in Porto, Issue Project Room in New York, Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, The Lab in San Francisco, Ina GRM in Paris, and Tempelaukkio Kirke in Helsinki. In Arkbro’s musical realm, harmonic sound interacts with the acoustic architecture of the space, transforming in various ways as the listener navigates through the sonic landscape. Her chordal textures unfold like invisible sculptures – diamond formations for the listening mind.
April 9, 2024
The Phantom Carriage
intertitles in Swedish
Swedish Film Institute
COPY / EVENT TYPE
Victor Sjöström (David Holm), Hilda Borgström (Anna Holm), Tore Svennberg (Georges), Astrid Holm (Edit), Concordia Selander (Edit’s mother), Lisa Lundholm (Maria), Einar Axelsson (David’s brother)
Victor Sjöström (based on Selma Lagerlöf’s novel)
Julius Jaenzon (black & white)
Alexander Bako, Axel Esbensen