Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Haunting Expressions and The Hands of Orlac

Among the gloomy procession that marched through the psychological fog of German Expressionism, the emotionally charged masterpiece, Orlacs Hande, or The Hands of Orlac, may very well be one of the most haunting. The brooding atmosphere which lists within Orlac's world is as elusive as a snark, yet tamed accordingly by the very capable Robert Wiene, who had helmed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari four years prior, and was once again directing the tall, sharp-featured Conrad Veidt in the lead as the tormented Paul Orlac. The film was an adaption of the book Les Mains d'Orlac, by Maurice Renard, and has been twice remade. The most notable being the 1935 Peter Lorre vehicle directed by Karl Freund, who was himself not enirely unfamiliar with the movement which incited the first adaption, having been cinematographer to such films as Metropolis, The Golem, and the Bela Lugosi classic Dracula. The story centers upon an accomplished pianist deprived of his hands in a horrendous train wreck, which are in turn replaced by the hands of a convicted murderer. A nightmarish conspiracy soon eclipses his life as he descends slowly into madness and despair, terrified that his hands "demand blood" and are irrevocably unclean.

I was recently moved to compose an illustration depicting the tortured Orlac - I do hope it maintains the respect for the works that inspired it.