Saturday, 22 October 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin's Music

Very interesting video of the We Need To Talk About Kevin press conference at the London Film Festival, concerning the music and sound design through which it's incorporated.

It's fascinating to get a chink of a window into the process of apportioning extant popular music and the use of the original score. It's extraordinary to think that 'thousands' of pieces were played against the film before 'finding' those those worked. It's an oddly organic, aleatoric process - I had assumed that it was more calculated than that, that Lynne Ramsay would have had more precipitate ideas of the music she wanted. I think anyone who invests huge amounts of money in producing a film might want more pre-production assurance, even for the slight budget on which Kevin was made (£7M, Ramsay has suggested).

It's also noteworthy that Ramsay and her producer are keen to acknowledge their sound designer, Paul Davies. It's a conspicuous asset of the film that the sound design is hand in glove with the aesthetic of the images, pacing and dovetailed narrative fragments - an artifice of the film that 'would bring you back to spaces subliminally' as Ramsay neatly puts it. The banal, pitchless monotony of the sprinkler is the stand-out example.

Greenwood's score isn't sui generis, separately memorable. Indeed those clips one can hear used in the trailer (above) incorporate the percussive repetitiousness of that sprinkler. In the tradition of his other music, there are pellucid layers of pitch, harmonically undermined from both above and below - in other words just when you think the music is moving in a familiar direction it shifts or becomes discordant. Again, this is consonant with the aesthetic of the editing, twisting and re-ordering the timeline overlaying the action of a former experience with the sounds of a consequent one.

All this has a very pointed effect - building tension, subverting the linear narrative. It also contributes to the more disturbing subtext of the film, that Eva struggles to work out whether or not she is to blame, whether her own guilt has any reasonable basis. If the sounds and scenes of one part of life bleed into another across the membrane of realism then perhaps there is some way of justifying her own guilt. The equivocation of her self-judgement is represented by the skilful blending of original and extant music with the body fo the film, just as her guilt and that of her son's is blended as their bodies once were.

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