Known for his poignant use of long-forgotten, and sometimes deteriorated, archival footage to open new doors of perception about our shared history and collective mythology, filmmaker Bill Morrison has crafted his own detective story out of his latest film music venture with composer David Lang, aptly titled The Village Detective: a song cycle.
The saga began in 2016, when Morrison received an email from composer Jóhann Jóhannsson about a fisherman off the coast of Iceland who had found four reels of an old Soviet film in his net. Derevensky Detektiv (1969) was not a lost, rare, or even a particularly good film, but Morrison was intrigued, and began to build his own mystery narrative around the film’s discovery at the bottom of the ocean.
“The story involves a stolen accordion,” he explains. “And I started to think about that instrument as a set of lungs that is found in the folk music of people all across the globe.” When Jóhannsson died unexpectedly in 2018, Morrison brought the idea to Lang. “David was excited by the fact that this film had new stories to tell. Ultimately we arrived at a soundtrack with a single accordion [played with elegance and emotion by Norwegian musician Frode Andersen] — a single set of lungs diving into the ocean to retrieve this story. The extraordinary music David wrote perfectly captures this, and the beautiful, tragic and inexorable drift of time.”
Bill Morrison’s film is currently scheduled for a North American theatrical release via Kino Lorber later this year.