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Hands of Orlac, The
(Orlacs Hände)

The film version of Maurice Renard’s novel LES MAINS D’ORLAC was a welcome opportunity for director Robert Wiene and actor Conrad Veidt to join forces. The Encyclopedia of International Film describes THE HANDS OF ORLAC as a late-expressionist silent movie that combines motifs from realistic criminal movies with elements of the, at that time, rather new science of psychology. And the contemporary „Kinematograph“ (February 8, 1925) emphasizes that THE HANDS OF ORLAC represents a great asset to the rather uniform schedules of the movie theaters. The author also assumes that even the theaters in small cities will be glad to break up the realism of conventional productions with this work of fantastic power.

The new score by Henning Lohner is conceived for solo piano and symphony orchestra. The composer considers THE HANDS OF ORLAC a model for all horror movies that deal with organ transplantation and takes up genre-typical patterns. He analyses the dramatic structure and techniques of music composed for horror movies and brings them to one of the early masterpieces of that genre and thus achieves a paradoxical effect. The silent movie represents itself in a very pure way - with its gestural language, with its specific temporality, with its unique ability to make the horror from one‘s imagination the worst horror one could ever imagine. The terrifying impression of untold things and objects which are staged so brilliantly in the movie carries on in the music in a subtle manner. This impression takes its part in the interplay of brightness and seriousness, of twilight and shadow. In the silent language of the movie, the music promotes the cry that cannot be heard in Orlac‘s own world.

Paul Orlac is a gifted pianist who loses both hands during a serious train accident. To make his return to the concert stage possible, doctors transplant the hands of a deceased person. After a long healing process, Paul Orlac is finally able to return to playing the piano. One day he learns that his new hands were the hands of an executed murderer called Vasseur. He panics and is increasingly haunted by the niggling idea that he has gained not only the murderer’s hands but also his sinister „tastes“. When Paul Orlac’s father is found dead - with Vasseur’s fingerprints on the dagger - he is driven to the edge of madness ...


Henning Lohner (new score)

  large orchestra    
1+1/pic+1/alto.2+1/ca.2+1/ bcl.2+1/cbsn - 4.3.2+btrb.1 - timp.3perc.drums - cel + solo pno - hp - str