Spanish composer Mikel Lauki originally composed Waiting for the Thaw in the winter of 2011-12 for a screening of the classic silent film Herr Arnes pengar (Sir Arne´s Treasure, 1919) by Finnish-Jewish director Mauritz Stiller, himself a fascinating, visionary and tragic figure, who had fled the draconian conscription ukas of the Czar (Finland being a Russian grand duchy at the time) for Stockholm. Based on the 1904 novel by Nobel Prize laureate Selma Lagerlöf, it is considered one of the gems of the “golden age” of the Swedish silent film industry.
Set in the 16th century, a trio of Scottish mercenaries formerly in the employ of the Swedish king, having committed robbery, murder and arson, hide their treasure and bide their time in a west coast port, waiting for the ice to break up in order to flee back home. It never does, however, not until the moment after the guilty men have been captured.
On film, Stiller rimes every frame with the hoar of winter´s grip. On record, Lauki´s soundtrack (featuring two tracks co-composed with regular collaborator Pleq) plays the role – the air crackles, every string is frigid and tight, every piano chord a snowball, wind unrelenting and raw. But Lauki also generates much needed cello warmth and brings ingenious variation and understated drama to the tale. Waiting for the Thaw is one of those gifted soundtracks that transcends its origins as “accompaniment”.