VIDEODROOM Curator Wouter Vanhaelemeesch praatte met Martin Kohlstedt over 'Son of the White Mare'. De Duitse pianist speelt op 21 oktober live een nieuwe soundtrack voor de Hongaarse animatiefilm. Lees meer over het concert & de film en bestel meteen je tickets.

Let wel: interview in het Engels.

The terms 'unique' and 'masterpiece' tend to be thrown around quickly when it comes to talking about rediscovered films and cult cinema in general,but it's difficult to think of any other way to label animation classic 'Son of the White Mare' (aka Fehérlófia). Made in 1981 by Hungarian director Marcell Jancovik, it's a dazzling and surreal diamond of European animation filmmaking. Based on the myths and folk tales of the nomadic Steppes people, 'Son of the White Mare' paints a kaleidoscopic fairy tale world where horses bear human babies and epic hero journeys are the order of the day. Visually stunning, it features unusual geometrical character designs, fascinatingly fluid landscapes and bright vibrant colours. It's swift 85 minutes are a celebration of the power of storytelling and hand drawn animation.

Received as a monumental achievement by critics upon release, 'Son of the White Mare' slowly disappeared from the radar and started an alternative life circulating on bootleg tapes and later on low quality youtube rips. That's where VIDEODROOM curator Wouter Vanhaelemeesch stumbled across this 
forgotten gem a couple of years back and the idea sprang up to somehow do a screening of the film during the festival. A restorated version of the film was introduced to the world in 2020 and not much later the plan came up to invite a musician to write and perform a new soundtrack for the film. The honor befell lauded German experimental pianist and composer Martin Kohlsted, whose work is an enticing mixture of contemporary classical music, subtle electronics and playful improvisation. Vanhaelemeesch sat down with Kohlsted to talk about this project which premiers at Kunstencentrum VIERNULVIER this coming Friday during VIDEODROOM.

1. Martin, I'd like to know what your first thoughts were when you started watching 'Son of the White Mare' ?

When you sent me the link to Fehérlófia (1981), I was still sitting at my desk doing my tax return and was slightly annoyed. The first few minutes passed and I didn't even realize that I had completely stopped thinking, but was just following the immersive film and staring open-mouthed at the screen. Wouter had sent me a Hungarian masterpiece of animation and asked me if I could imagine improvising a live soundtrack for it. There was only one answer, so I'm really looking forward to this special concert and a big thank you for the inspiration! 

2. You tend to use a lot of improvisation when it comes to the use of electronics in your live show, which sets a very exciting atmosphere where things can go wonderfully right or wrong. Will the live soundtrack you're composing also play with this? 

The images triggered my intuition quite quickly and subconsciously something musical wanted to start right away. It would be fatal with such infinitely profound images to rely purely on conscious composition, that would be a little too human for such a great extraterrestrial film. The third dimension only comes with improvisation, the associative reaction to the moment, and also watching the film as a larger shared experience in the "Viernulvier" cinema dissolves further boundaries. The biggest part of the preparation is to understand the film in every detail by heart, to become the film itself, so to speak.

3. In what way did the movie inspire you to do things you might not do (composing wise, technically...) in your more regular set?

The film works with special, minimalist atmospheres that do not necessarily build up to a whole composition or a well-defined arrangement, but captivate through a very clear choice of sound. Cold, cutting, almost noisy imitations of nature or rearing, evolving almost intuitive sound design that seems to follow the images and forms a fine line between a juxtaposition of sounds and music. I will take this attitude to heart and open up additional colors to my Improvisations.

4. What has been the most challenging aspect of this whole project?

To be able to embody a film score with such an approach you have to live through the film as if you were surfing a wave, you can't be before the wave or after it, you have to be right in the moment so that things happen as they should. You must not look at the film and its chapters like a todo list, you must not wait for musical cues and caesurae, but simply bravely embody a medium between film and music without the feeling of a concert. And that is easy to say, but needs a good reactor, which the Viernulvier Theatre certainly brings.


5. What's your favorite use of soundtrack in film in general? Is there one that means something special for you personally or as an artist?

With music to moving pictures, it is always important for me to express what we do not see, the multi-layered between the lines, that visual beings can subconsciously guide us, shock us or even caricature us, the real discourse for me takes place on the musical level. This can be the unknown as in Cliff Martinez's embodied music of the planet Solaris or the incomprehensible life itself as in John Tavener's Funeral Canticle for the film "Tree of Life". Images capture what we can define, while music can bring us closer to what we do not yet understand.