John Darnielle at the Swedish American Music Hall, Noise Pop 2009
Photo by: Nicole Browner

Back in 1919, a Swedish film told the story of three Scottish mercenaries who kill, steal, and fall in love – all in one tumultuous silent melodrama, entitled “Sire Arne’s Treasure“:

Set in the 16th century against a particularly unforgiving winter landscape, Sir Arne’s Treasure is Swedish master Stiller’s haunting tale of murder, betrayal and divine redemption. This epic journey begins with the escape from captivity of three Scottish mercenaries who go on to slay the local parson – Sir Arne – and nearly all of his kin. After stealing his treasure, which is rumored to carry a brutal curse, the soldiers find themselves trapped by a frozen sea and must remain in close quarters with the vengeful townspeople. As one of them falls in love with the sole survivor of their murderous spree, the film hones in on the eternal paradox of love versus justice. What fate will the lovers choose? Employing a technical prowess far ahead of its time, Stiller’s historical melodrama is rife with both subtle beauty and supernatural intrigue.

Any silent film worth its salt requires a good musical score as accompaniment to the story. In the case of Sir Arne’s Treasure, the plot certainly loans itself to a potentially engaging and chilling score, one that should be tackled by a worthy musician. That musician turns out to be none other than John Darnielle, the irrefutably prolific man behind the Mountain Goats.

The Mountain Goats – “Dance Music”

Darnielle has composed a new score for Sir Arne’s Treasure, and will perform it live for the first time along with a screening of the film on Tuesday, December 14th at the Castro Theater (8:00 pm, $17/SFFS members, $22.50/general, $21/student/senior/disabled), care of the San Francisco Film Society. Tickets can be purchased via the San Francisco Film Society’s online ticket office. More information about the film and John Darnielle can also be found on the SFFS website.