It's about murder, sex, drugs, gambling and the manipulation of the stock markets and the media. The plot has all the elements of a successful criminal story. However, this alone is not why Fritz Lang's "Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler" wrote film history. His well-constructed plot brings up fundamental questions, which - and not only at the premiere in 1922 - are explosive in a social context.
During the 1920s, this film touched an emotional nerve in the audience. In the director's own words: "The time after the first world war was a time of deepest despair for Germany. Unspeakable poverty next to enormous wealth. Berlin was a word for Greed - the amassing of money ... Dr. Mabuse is the prototype of this time."
The story still rings true today - this was made clear on Saturday evening in Potsdam's Nikolaisaal. That the performance was a singularly memorable film experience was not only because of the flair of the expressionistic visual language. It was also due to the new soundtrack by composer Michael Obst, which was presented in context of the "Crossover" concert series by the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.
Successfully. The audience was given a highly emotional experience. "Music which illustrates the immediate film plot, as well as that which tries to capture the atmosphere of the film's milieu" - in the words of the composer. Borrowings from dance music of the 20s, as well as a Prussian military march, flow into this atonal composition.
The factor of time is extremely important for Obst. Pulsating chords and insistent percussion interludes make the sense of time more intense - apparently the musician, born in Frankfurt am Main in 1955, has thought long and deep about the laws of acoustic and visual narrative rhythm. A guarantee for suspense.
This makes his use of silence even more powerful. One impressive example: a prison cell scene, in which secrets held by an incarcerated woman are to be pried away by another woman, ostensibly also a prisoner, unfolds to absolute silence. Their interaction develops and intensifies until, almost as an act of mercy, an angular broken song by string instruments enters.
The ensemble under the direction of Scott Lawton earns high praise. Especially brilliant were the most challenging sections of Michael Obst's score - up to and including the ecstatic orchestral finish, which was greeted by tremendous applause."