In a world of surgical implants, artificial limbs and tattooed flesh, a disturbed young woman dreams of the perfect body. However, Sophie’s self-image is at odds with society’s preconceptions and only the amputation of her left arm will fulfil her desire. In desperation, she seeks assistance from the medical profession. As the procedure is illegal, horrified surgeons dismiss her request. Tired of being rejected Sophie finds hope in Dr. Simpson who will end up suffering the devastating consequences of her dark obsession.
How did this project come about?
Emilio [Soberino] approached me with this project and presented a great script and footage with some really compelling and shocking images. As we discussed the various angles he wanted to explore, it was obvious this was going to be a dark, fragile piece with a real unnerving undercurrent.
Going into this what were your inspirations?
We didn’t actually discuss too many existing scores which was interesting. Usually when I work with a director the conversation goes to ‘have you seen this, or what if we did something similar to…’. With Emilio it was really open book for us. The one reference we did make was to the end of American Beauty, but that idea got thrown out!
So how did you start?
We both wanted to create a disorientated off-kilter sonic effect in the compelling scene where Sophia is destroying the jigsaw. We started there, adding pulses and irregular rhythmic elements and melodic shapes until something stuck. We wanted to punctuate that scene with disturbing scrapes to highlight the knife and her desperation. The rest of the score grew from this. I worked backwards to the beginning building in ambiences and drones.
What did you find challenging about creating this score?
We had to balance these dark unnerving images with a sense of humanism. It is obvious that Sophia is desperate and fragile, so we had to create something sonically to reflect that. We started to feed in solo cello and viola lines, playing in their higher registers to get this strangled, fearful and panicked feeling across. It was tricky weaving this in with other processed and almost alien sounds, both had to take the forefront at one point or another so it was striking that balance that was the challenging part.
Apart from the solo strings, you hear piano taking various forms throughout the film. Tell us about that.
Yes it does. The piano is first used over the titles, using hollow perfect 4th and 5th intervals. As Sophia is clutching at the television the piano is there again, this time using a more open setting with larger intervals, reflecting this need and desperation of Sophia reaching out for help. A little later on, the piano is there again as the only instrument when Sophia is kidnapping the doctor’s wife. The writing here is such a stark contrast to demonstrate the ulterior, darker side of Sophia’s mindset. As Sophia is going under for the operation we hear the piano playing a version of the hollow titles theme, creating this sense of going into the unknown that Sophia must be feeling. Finally, we have the dream sequence. The piano drives that at first with a haunting melody over a repetitive and hypnotic chord sequence, reflecting the passing images as part of Sophia’s dreams. As she comes to reality the piano line starts to become warped and distorted, portraying her realisation, panic and fear.
Were there any last–minute changes?
We weren’t fully settled on a specific ending for quite a while. Eventually I drew up 3 alternative endings each with varying levels of ‘musical disorientation’. It is hard listening back to remember what the others were, so I think we made the right choice with what we have.
Once you had the musical ideas in place, how do you go about the mixing and mastering process?
I always do the mix and master in different sessions. I want a clear head and some perspective to step away from the musical ideas. It is so hard to let go and not look keep tweaking the musical elements so I find coming fresh to a mixing session the following day is better. I do the same from the mixing session. I sit on it for a day then come back and do the master and the technical tweaking and levels-mashing. I wait even longer to turn it into a soundtrack album, that’s because there are a whole bunch of other projects waiting to be written, and the cat is demanding attention and food by that point.