Film scores

Soundtrack review: High rise (Clint Mansell – 2016)

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The mystery…the harp…the whistling and the rest of the colorful collection of sounds make “High rise” one of the most fascinating and imaginative scores I’ve heard in a while.

For me, Clint Mansell is in the hall of fame. There’s no other way I could start this review. The man who wrote “Requiem for a dream”, to name but my favorite score of his, will always get to priority from me. His latest score comes from the movie “High rise”, a 2015 British science fiction action thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy and Keeley Hawes. London, 1975. Robert Laing is a young doctor seduced by the lifestyle in a high-rise, an isolated community, cut off from the rest of society in their luxury tower block, and its creator, the architect Anthony Royal. Taking up residence on the twenty-fifth floor, Laing discovers a world of complex loyalties, and also strikes up a relationship with Royal’s devoted aide Charlotte. After Laing befriends Richard Wilder, a documentary filmmaker relegated to the second floor who is determined to provoke the class injustices inherent in the high-rise, a dangerous social situation develops and the high-rise eventually fragments into violent tribes.

The opening is as elegant as I would expect from a luxury community in London. “Critical mass” puts me in a good mood with its imposing string section and the matching brass. I always love a beautiful orchestral opening because it brings me joy, it makes me feel celebratory. Not that it was even in the back of my head but this is Clint Mansell so there’s so fear of getting a generic score. A movie like this could have easily been scored by the numbers but this is someone who always has something new to bring and something interesting to say musically.

A cue like “Silent corridors” could have been written in a number of ways but the composer cleverly made it almost playful. There are round glass sounds in this piece which make me feel of the pleasure and curiosity of discovering new surroundings, of the optimism similar to that of a child being brought in a new environment. There’s a whistling at the end of the cue that deepens the sensation.

The music of “High rise” is alive and builds a world around me. I feel part of the story; there are scores which feel flat and I pass over them but this one is multi-dimensional like a hologram of sound doing its best to make me experience the story it completes. The music is constructed in such a way that the mood around me changes constantly depending on the room I am in. Every instrument reveals something more to me and every note is a butterfly asking me to play with it. I listen to a cue like “The circle of women” and I am once again a child surrounded by toys which make various fascinating noises and I don’t know where to look first. I do know that I am happy and excited to discover all this.

The mystery…the harp…the whistling and the rest of the colorful collection of sounds make “High rise” one of the most fascinating and imaginative scores I’ve heard in a while. While less emotional than Clint Mansell’s usual compositions it more than makes up by telling me on orchestral fairytale which leaves me wanting more. Do not miss this score; it will make everything around you seem pale in comparison.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25  / 42

Album excellence: 61%

Highlights:

Critical Mass

Silent Corridors

The Circle Of Women

“Built, Not For Man, But For Man’s Absence”

Danger In The Streets Of The Sky

“Somehow The High-Rise Played Into The Hands Of The Most Petty Impulse”

Blood garden

About the author

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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