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Soundtrack review: Automata (Zacarías M de la Riva, 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Automata (Zacarías M de la Riva, 2014)



“Automata” is a sci-fi movie starring Antonio Banderas, set in a world overrun by robots. The score was written by Zacarías M de la Riva, a Spanish composer I hadn’t heard from until now. I will surely keep my ears open for his compositions from now on though.

“Automata” starts strong and poignant. “The Earth” and “We want to live” set a heavy elegiac tone to the score. The latter is a choral beauty which sounds like a requiem. I get the feeling of a desolate and desperate world where all hope is gone. The cue “Apology” is already a favorite, with its stunning cello overture and inserts coming over an action background. “Desperation” is actually more hopeful than what I’ve heard so far. With this layered and sophisticated beginning, “Automata” got me hooked.

There’s an almost unique sound to this score. The combination of aggressive strings, atmospheric music and choral inserts I imagine, show the difference between two worlds depicted in the movie: the broken world outside and the ideals of the main character. This duality is present in almost every cue, and it’s a very interesting approach. The choirs give this score a purity that contradicts what the world in the movie has become.

I have to highlight “Night out dancing”. It’s a gorgeous track that starts low key, like an old school atmospheric synth track, before the cello and strings take over. The blend between solo cello and ambient music is brilliant. This cue speaks to me, makes me care about what it wants to say, I understand it and embrace it.

I have to admit that parts of this score remind me of the mood set by “Oblivion”. I find in “Automata” the things I liked about one of  last year’s best scores and I’m slowly sinking into that wonderful feeling I get when I know I’ve discovered a score that I will listen to many times in the future. This is what film music is all about.

I’m in the middle of “Automata” and getting even more excited about what comes next, what more surprises it has in store for me. I know by now that not every cue is what it seems… One might start elegiac and slow and end up on top of a mountain, another one might start with stabbing strings and end up as a beautiful atmospheric piece. A cue might chill you to the bones with the mood it sets and then warm you back up with a beautiful cello motif.

“Automata requiem”, the epilogue to this score, is a beautiful and tender track, with warm choirs and a blissful sound that makes “Automata” come full circle and establish itself as one of the most interesting discoveries of 2014. “Automata” is a complex and fulfilling journey, a smart and rewarding listen, and I will come back to it often.


Cue rating: 79 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 35 / 54
Album excellence:64%


The Earth

We Want to Live



Birth of a New Robot

Good Luck Jacq

A Night Out Dancing

The Canyon: Part 1

The Canyon: Part 2

Automata Requiem


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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