Movie: Prisoners (2013)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Composer: Jòhann Jòhannsson
Ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been mostly talking about uplifting movies and I think its time to explore something a little darker. By that I really mean: let’s discover the harsh and realistic world of a Denis Villeneuve movie in which two little girls get kidnapped which makes one of the fathers go mad which makes him torture a suspect he kidnapped which makes him a suspect as well and makes the whole movie feel like you’re getting punched in the stomach when you’ve just eaten five plates of pastas. Yeah, this isn’t what you call “Disney material”. However, this is one of the most refreshing takes on the thriller genre and it is definitely a must see for anybody who enjoys feeling like shit whenever a film concludes. I’m just fucking with you but this is a great movie and you should not look past it.
At the movie’s musical helm is Icelandic composer Jòhann Jòhannsson. I still wonder if it’s the amazing landscapes or the secluded villages that make Iceland home to some of the best musicians/composers/bands in the world. Low Roar, Sigur Rós, Ólafur Arnalds, Kaleo, the list goes on and on, and at the top of that list is mister Jòhannsson. Since his very first Hollywood soundtrack, Jòhannsson has brought something new to the table while keeping a strong hold to his musical roots. His music is very melancholic and it blends itself into the sound design more than any other film music I’ve ever heard. From his dark musical atmospheres on Prisoners to his light but very powerful melodies in The Theory of Everything, Jòhannsson is one of the few composers that stays true to himself. He won’t accept a project if he can’t have absolute artistic freedom upon working on it. That’s why his work with Denis Villeneuve is so fantastic; because Villeneuve gives him a free card to do whatever he wants. His only restriction is to respect the mood and boy does Jòhannsson deliver.
Trust me when I say this, Villeneuve and Jòhannsson are an incredible artistic duo. First off, Villeneuve is a director that knows how to create an atmosphere. He’s extremely good when it comes to placing the audience in a certain mood. On the other hand, Jòhannsson achieves the same effect but he does it with music. That’s why the duo works so well; they complete each other. Second, Villeneuve knows exactly when a scene needs music and Jòhannsson knows exactly what to compose to convey the right feeling. That’s why his scores blend themselves so well into the sound design; they occupy the same auditory space as footsteps, car noises or even room tone. In this case, the music isn’t considered as an outside effect to dramatize the movie; it’s part of the movie itself.
As time goes by, Jòhannsson is getting better and better at creating soundtracks that feel as if they’re part of the sound design while reflecting the movie’s atmosphere. Just look at his work on every american film from Villeneuve and you’ll see what I mean. He’s getting better because he works with the same director; atleast that’s the way I see it. A lot of directors work with multiple composers, but very few stick with the same. It’s a shame because director/composer collaborations have created some of the best soundtracks ever. To name a few: Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer are great, Darren Aranofsky and Clint Mansell are fantastic, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman are fucking legendary, and don’t get me started on Steven Spielberg and John Williams. Villeneuve and Jòhannsson are just getting started and I’m sure we haven’t seen (and heard) the last of them…
Alright, enough talk… Time for the good part: the music!
Interesting trivia: For the film’s original score, Jòhannsson recorded a lot of solo cellos that were then layered, manipulated, and processed electronically to create an electronic sound scape which he hoped would blend itself seamlessly into the acoustic part of the soundtrack. He wanted to meld the two aspects into each other so that the audience wouldn’t be able to notice whenever the electronic part would enter or leave the auditory space. Guess what, it worked pretty fucking well…
Song: The Lord’s Prayer
Song: The Candlelight Vigil
Song: Through Falling Snow
Thanks for reading (and listening). See you next week!