Naedelei is a 30-minute drama, written and directed by Dan Heflin, inspired by the German tale of Lorelei, a Siren maiden of the River Rhine who, after being betrayed by her lover, lures unsuspecting men to a watery grave. Transferred to small-town America where there are legends of men being lured to their death by the ghostly figure of Naedelei (Kristin Hunter), the film centres on Ronnie (Doug Noe) who has recently arrived in town for his nephew’s wedding. It’s not long before Ronnie starts having strange dreams that are inhabited by Naedelei and he soon realises that his nephew is in danger from the Siren of the legend.
The Naedelei score is composed by writer/director Dan Heflin. The music focuses on the torment of the ghostly Naedelei through the use of thematic material rather than emphasising any outright horror that may be suggested by the story. Written predominantly for a small orchestral and chamber ensemble, the highlight of the score is Heflin’s use of the voices of the San Jose State University Chamber Singers. Reminiscent of the part-song form of choral singing where voices (usually with no accompaniment) are prominent, the use of the choir here is suggestive of an immense sadness associated with Naedelei. She seems to be driven not by hate but by a profound sense of lost. Heard to its greatest effect in “Lully Bridge” (the area where Naedelei haunts), solo male and female voices converse in an echo of the Siren’s capture of her victims, culminating in a beautiful passage for massed choir reflecting almost the joining of victim and seducer in the cold waters of the river. The choir also features in “Choral Finale” and the addition of string quartet adds an interesting colour. The theme featured in “Lully Bridge” and “Choral Finale” re-appears at several other points within the score, voiceless but featuring slight variations in orchestration.
Although the theme just discussed seems to be a central theme for the film, the album itself opens with “Whispering Her Name”, a light, bright almost whimsical track for full ensemble (strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion) where the music perhaps hints at the innocence of Naedelei prior to her being jilted (it’s difficult to know without having seen the film if the album has the music tracks in film order). Echoes of this theme are heard later on flute in “Ghost Tour”. Sombre piano heard in the second cue, “The River Maiden”, then showcases an additional thematic idea that touches at Naedelei’s unfortunate fate. The remainder of the score is made up of relatively short tracks that quote various thematic ideas that are heard more fully elsewhere. There are also a couple of cues devoid of melody but which are related to moments in the film when Naedelei’s presence intrudes into “normal” life; for example, the unsettling tracks “Dream Sequence” and “Hallucination”, with their electronic sounds and percussive elements will be recognisable to anyone familiar with Kenji Kawai’s scores to Japanese horror films such as Ringu.
Naedelei is a score that is quite understated and not overly dramatic, preferring to support the emotional thrust of the film rather than going out to scare. The composer is served well by the musicians of the San Jose State University Symphony Orchestra, particularly those making up the string chamber ensemble. As already mentioned, the singers of the San Jose State University Chamber Singers are a particular highlight of the score and “Lully Bridge”, to my ears anyway, can easily be a great stand-alone choral piece (the text for these choral parts are taken from an Old Norse poem, the Hávamál). Heflin’s score for Naedelei won “Best Concept and Music Composition” at the recent After Dark Film Festival held in Germany at the end of 2013, and I can understand why. The score does suffer from the significant number of tracks that come in at under sixty seconds in length, but this is a minor gripe. The final 6-7 minutes in particular will stay in the memory (haunt?) for some time. Audio samples can be found HERE and the album can be purchased as a digital download. And for those interested in further information, Dan Heflin has uploaded a series of “behind-the-scenes” videos, including two featuring footage of the orchestra and choir.
- Whispering Her Name (3:00)
- The River Maiden (2:04)
- Choral Finale (1:28)
- Siren Song (Naedelei Theme) (0:39)
- Dream Sequence (0:38)
- Grave Walk (1:48)
- The Ride (0:52)
- Hallucination (0:26)
- Ghost Tour (0:54)
- Last Words (0:27)
- Antiquarian Book Dealer (0:22)
- Lully Bridge (2:42)
- Duet (0:31)
- Closing Credits (1:11)
- Choral Finale (Extended Version) (2:26)
Running Time: 19:31
Heftone Productions (2014)