Wojciech Kilar

" Barely 27 minutes long, UpiĆ³r displays Wojciech Kilar abilities (almost) at his best. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the music as heard in the movie

Upiór (Vampire, 1967) is a short horror film directed by Stanislaw Lenartowicz. The film is based on a short story by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy and is about a young man who discovers all of the people around him all turn into vampires.

Even though Wojciech Kilar scored numerous films with facets of horror, the genre is not widespread in Polish cinema. Naturally, there is the enfant terrible director Andrzej Zulawski (Possesion and Diabel) and films like Matka Joanna od Aniolów and Lokis. As far as the composer is concerned, in terms of vampires, Bram Stoker´s Dracula is naturally the score everyone will remember. Upiór is a score that shows a lot of his trademarks, but it sounds like stereotyped, almost parody music. The quirkiness is also evident in scores such as Le Roi et l’Oiseau, Zemsta, Iluminacja and Rejs. Another thing, the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (recorded in Katowice), much employed by the composer, are impressive in their performances for the music to Upiór.
In the opening shot of Upiór the protagonist runs towards the camera, ultimately screaming his lungs out of his body. The composer underscores this with the hypnotic metallic ticking sounds, aided by stressed strings, that become heavier as the protagonist reaches the camera, introducing a thunderous percussion and brass statement, augmenting his scream. The film then cuts to an Aristocratic dance in the compounds of their comforting house. It´s a classic ballroom dance for strings and woodwinds. As the dance music disappears, the evil sounding Upiór motif, a dark brass and percussion pounded motif, is introduced. As the guest converge, at 6:41 into the film, a royal brass solo and other instruments follow, offering a great continuation to the earlier heard dance music. This closes the use of any Aristocratic music, while the other musical ideas re-occur later on. Barely 7 minutes into the short film, all music Kilar wrote is stereotype, but effective in many ways, especially in a comic sense.

Later on, the composer builds atmosphere by celesta, vibraphone tones, tremolo strings and some effective softer, and increasingly louder, rattling of drums. The Upiór motif is reprised several times and really becomes this very likable and recognisable musical entity within the film. In the end of the short, the opening score and images are reprised, extended by a celesta underscoring the fairytale-like footage of a woman, followed by the protagonist running away from the camera on a staccato rhythm and quirky piano notes.

The most impressive music is heard from 15:22 to 20:59, which starts as the protagonist finds himself in a dream-like moment: a sensual encounter with a woman. It starts with repeated plucked strings, as he is looking ata painting of her, and celesta as the image morphs into the actual presence of her in front of him. The scene takes a romantic and sensual turn as they converge into preparing for intercourse, with rolling harp, lush strings and piano. While the piano is quite light at first, the emerging minimal notes foretell the first attack of a vampire, and the sense of intrigue, since he does not know she is a vampire, and does not know if he is dreaming. The attack cue that immediately follows afterwards is introduced by small drum hits, followed by the Upiór motif. It then becomes full-blown chaos, with dissonance, performed by impressive strings, brass and other ingredients, as he is attacked by a woman and a man leaving his biting marks. The cue ends with a bold statement of the Upiór motif, as the protagonist retaliates with a knife. While it can be considered as a seriously frightening composition, in some of the musical details there's this sense of quirkiness, also hard in other scenes, especially the therefore mentioned ending. Then, after a short moment of silence, it segues into killing the other vampire who had just bitten him, scored by the use of similar musical ideas, yet shorter and withholding the broader orchestral strength.

Barely 27 minutes long, Upiór displays Wojciech Kilar abilities (almost) at his best, consisting of a lot of great stereotyped horrific music, yet is versatile and surprisingly amusing.

(writen 21-01-2020)
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(total of 1 votes - average 4.5/5)

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- (music as heard in the movie 1967)