Rarely screened silent film will come to Epsilon Spires
Emil Jannings won Best Actor at the first-ever Academy Awards for his portrayal of a Czarist general during the Russian Revolution in the 1928 film, “The Last Command.”

Rarely screened silent film will come to Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — Kick off Oscar season at Epsilon Spires with a screening of The Last Command, a groundbreaking 1928 silent drama featuring Emil Jannings, winner of the first Best Actor Academy Award for his performance of a former Czarist general.

The screening will take place on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. New Hampshire-based organist Jeff Rapsis will create a live musical score for The Last Command as the movie is shown, improvising on the venue's original Estey pipe organ, built in Brattleboro and installed in the building in 1906.

“Making up the music on the spot is kind of a high-wire act,” Rapsis said in a news release. “But there's nothing like the energy and excitement that comes with improvised live performance, especially when accompanying a silent film."

Rapsis first appeared at Epsilon Spires on New Year's Day, accompanying a screening of the Swedish silent film masterpiece The Phantom Carriage.

“Jeff did an absolutely riveting live score for The Phantom Carriage and, inspired by our adventurous approach to programming, he suggested that we work together to screen another incredible, yet under-seen, cinematic gem,” says Jamie Mohr, Director of Epsilon Spires.

The Last Command, directed by Josef von Sternberg, explores shifting power dynamics and motivations during the Russian Revolution while offering a parallel critique of the Hollywood machine. The film follows the sweeping story of a powerful general forced to flee his homeland during the Bolshevik Revolution. He emigrates to America, where he is reduced to living in poverty.

Finding work as an extra at a Hollywood studio, the general is cast by a political adversary to play himself in a film about the Revolution, causing flashbacks to his traumatic experiences. The psychological conflict leads to a spectacular climax and a towering performance.

“This 'film within a film' is extremely meta and very surprising in what interlocking complexities emerge,” says Mohr, adding that “Jannings' unforgettable portrayal of a man losing his grip on reality is one for the history books.”

Tickets are $15; purchase at the door or at epsilonspires.org.

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