“It’s like a first generation Die Hard,” Magnús Trygvason Elíassen, the drums of Amiina, exclaimed to the audience in his introductory spiel, receiving a full house of laughs. Nothing welcomes and unites an audience more than Icelandic humor. He assured us he had no idea what the plot of Fantômas was, not speaking a word of French himself. To enjoy this performance, you do not need to understand the plot in full, it is Amiina’s score that is the highlight.
Originally a string quartet of four girls, Amiina now takes the form of a male and female band. The Icelandic musicians are known for their experimental and melancholy sounds. Amiina first met Fantômasin 2013. The band was commissioned to write a score for the film by the musician and composer Yann Tierson, most famous for his soundtrack to the French film Amélie. There are five parts to Fantômas, a series of French thriller silent films, directed in 1913 by Jean Feuillade. Amiina first performed this at Châtelet theatre, Paris, alongside four other bands. Amiina has continued to perform Fantômasthemselves since then. During an interview with Elíassen, he told me how magical their experience of performing Fantômashas always been. I was excited to see if I would experience this magic myself.
The score was cleverly curated. Repeated sequences refer to different characters throughout the film and the layering of various and unexpected instrumentation built up suspense found in the thriller genre of the film. Throughout, ambiance was created. I especially enjoyed the scene at the French restaurant, leading to a chase of the villain; a serene sequence was played beautifully led by the violinist, followed by a crescendo of cello, drums, xylophone and looping to create a thrilling episode. Silence was also adopted incredibly well to then make the audience jump with a loud outburst from the drum. The most enjoyable moments were those when Amiina played lulling sequences; it is then that we witnessed how their experiments and layering of sound create a unique and beautiful piece of music. It cannot be denied the pairing of Amiina with Fantômasis a match well suited.As a part of CINECITY, this performance gave a sense of bringing cinema back to its purest form, stripped back from the overwhelming overuse of technologies and sound in films today. Combined with the atmospheric score by Amiina, the silent film really come to a new life. It was indeed magical. I have seen two orchestral live scores to blockbuster films in the past year in much larger venues and it has to be said Amiina’s score was most enjoyable and the most impressive. Perhaps this is because it felt more intimate, more nostalgic or perhaps I felt more taken by the musical experiment? Elíasson told me that this performance is now performed for special occasions; it is this feeling that makes the night one to remember.