On 2 August Neil Brand’s music for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger opens the 2023 Locarno Film Festival; Philippe Béran conducts the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in the 90-minute score. Brand’s soundtrack was commissioned by Criterion Video to launch the second annual Yorkshire Silent Film Festival in 2017, with the live orchestra conducted by Ben Palmer. It accompanied a special restoration of the movie by the BFI Archive as part of their Hitchcock Nine project and marking ninety years since its release.

Brand discusses his music for The Lodger here, which is scored for an ensemble of flute, bassoon, horn, a pair of clarinets, one percussionist, piano, and six strings. Brand’s music for the central character is crafted to reflect the ambiguities and uncertainties that attend him in Hitchcock’s story, based on the 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes.

The 1927 silent was Hitchcock’s third feature and is an eerie hunt for a serial killer targeting London’s sex workers redolent of Jack the Ripper. It foregrounds many of the technical and thematic preoccupations of Hitchcock’s later movies: anxieties around sexuality and authority, the trope of the “wrong man”, and an experimental approach to lighting and photography. Ivor Novello - matinee idol, composer, and singer - plays the title character.

The Lodger is available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray; included as a special feature is Brand’s piano score for Hitchcock’s 1927 feature Downhill, which also stars Novello.

On one level the film is a love story and Brand’s rapturously romantic score underlines it. There are eerie and nerve-jangling moments in the music too, evoking the vampiric qualities of Novello’s screen presence, with its peculiar blend of feyness and intensity (some of the huge close-ups are startlingly beautiful). Above all this is a score which works in synchrony with the film, enhancing it rather than distracting from it.

Silent London (Sheldon Hall), 13 May 2017