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The Haunting Sound of Jen’s Grotzschel’s Musical Creations

Tod der Elfenfrau and Der Tote im Westfjord are companion films of the TV-series Der Island Krimi (Iceland Murders) which are simultaneously enchanting and disturbing. Translated in English as “The Silent Witness” and “The Mystery of the Westfjord”, they are a portrayal of the similarities and differences Iceland shares with other cultures. The productions star award winning actress Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bridge), Hildegard Schmahl, Joi Johannsson (Fortitude), and Derek Richardson (Anger Management) depicting crime stories in the country of Iceland where the existence of elves is deeply anchored in the conscious of people. Supernatural experiences are deeply embedded in both stories which combine a murder mystery with ghosts and elves. Composer Jens Grotzschel’s score is haunting yet beautiful in communicating the intense scenery and emotions of the region. Director Till Endemann gave substantial freedom to Grotzschel (additional music was supplied for The Mystery of the Westfjord by Icelandic artist Soley) which allowed the German composer to manifest an atmospheric sonic personality communicating the nature and landscapes of Iceland (beautifully photographed by Lars Liebold) and the warmth and love between sister(s) and mother in the stories.


The main character Solveig Karlsdottir (Potente) is a successful crime novelist living in the capital city of Reykjavik. She returns to the small fishing village where she grew up to take care of her mother and soon encounters a corpse which has washed ashore. Solveig is disturbed by the villager’s dismissal of nefarious possibilities and undertakes her own investigation. Later (in the second installment), Reyjkjavik’s elf representative Isolda Thorsdottir is shot and killed, with only a young girl as witness to the crime. The fragile girl is so traumatized that she cannot speak and Karlsdottir once again sets about to unravel the events and motives involved.


Grotzschel’s muse for film was the terrain of Iceland. Bitter cold, barren vegetation, smoldering rocks, yet beautiful in spite of the potential danger; these were the touchstones for his compositions. You’ll hear Jens citing terms more in line with that of a filmmaker than a typical musician. Woody, floral, warmth; these are adjectives that the composer uses when describing the music he creates. He explains, “I like to transfer these sensory cues into the music. For this particular production, I chose some higher and rougher sounds; sometimes a bit noisy with mechanical elements and reversed loops. Sometimes a bit hovering, which underlined the supernatural aspect.” Jens is known for his penchant in creating his own sounds, often even creating his own instruments. The “supernatural” sound he wanted for Der Island Krimi is most certainly cold and unique. This was achieved by playing metallic bowls of varying sizes played with a bow or struck like a drum. Steel balls were rotated in these bowls, simultaneously producing a drone and a sustained deviating pitch. Grotzschel used software to further alter and mutate these sounds to his liking.

Every part of a production team helps to tell the story in film and TV. While we pay the most attention to what is seen in these stories, it’s often the work of the unseen which is felt so strongly and ushers us down the path the character’s want us to follow. Jens Grotzschel’s score for these productions acts like a Sherpa for the viewer, we’re never really in danger but we feel as if we are. It’s the spirit of his music that alerts us to the spirits unseen in these stories.

Written by Kelly King
The Haunting Sound of Jen’s Grotzschel’s Musical Creations Reviewed by JaamZIN on 4:53:00 PM Rating: 5
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