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Soundtrack review: A cure for wellness (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: A cure for wellness (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2017)

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“A Cure for Wellness” is a 2016 psychological horror thriller film directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Justin Haythe. The film stars Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth, and follows a young executive who is sent to a mysterious rehabilitation center in the Swiss Alps. An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests there longing for the cure. Usually Gore Verbinski works with Hans Zimmer but since Hans was too busy to do this one, the score was written by one of his best collaborators and one of the most exciting composers working today, Benjamin Wallfisch.

Now Ben is very good with the piano and I instantly recognise his music in the opening cue “Hannah and Volmer”; he’s one of those composers who already has a style and sound of his own and this beautiful and suave theme, complete with vocal sections that blend into the fabric of the cue and a beautiful violin section charms me and makes me happy that I’m in for a complete and meaningful score. I always like an angelic voice in film music and “A cure for wellness” benefits from it.

Actually when I hear “Bicycle” I imagine I am listening to a score for a fantasy movie rather than a psychological horror thriller; then again the story is about the illusions of sick patients who think they found heaven so a fairy tale setting in the music makes sense. “The rite” goes closes to the horror genre and shows me that not everything is rosy on that mountain. Yes I need to hold my grip when the dark fantasy waltz of “Feuerwalzer” begins. I know this is not a regular ball as the music makes me think of ghosts dancing rather then regular people.

Even if the music somehow contradicts the setting of the movie in my mind I like the sensation it gives me; the music was written for the people that are under that strange spell and it feels as if Ben Wallfisch applied a fantasy filter over the reality of that rehabilitation center. The cello sections are marvellous and the way the music is built reminds me of the way Fernando Velazquez writes dark fantasy. I was excited about the movie before listening to the music but now I really can’t wait to see it.

A cue like “Actually I’m feeling much better” brings me joy and delight with it’s stride and lack of restrains. It’s the kind of creepy dance that Danny Elfman used to write for Tim Burton movies and it sounds great. An electronic cue that comes from another time? Yes, thank you, it’s welcomed in any score and “Our thoughts exactly” sounds like a nod from Ben to Hans Zimmer.

I enjoyed “A cure for wellness” the most in it’s louder fantasy sections when Ben Wallfisch lets the music free. The horror and suspense cues were alright and completed a very satisfactory listening experience.

Cue rating: 89 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 46
Album excellence: 50%
Highlights:
Hannah and Volmer
Nobody Ever Leaves
Bicycle
Feuerwalzer
Magnificent, Isn’t It
Actually I’m Feeling Much Better
Our Thoughts Exactly
Lockhart’s Letter
Volmer’s Lab

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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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4 Comments

  1. Lorenzo Peyrani 12th April 2017

    The recurring theme is stolen from Nick Drake’s “Way to Blue”. Everything else is just cold techinque.

    Reply
    1. Lorenzo Peyrani 12th April 2017

      technique*

  2. Peter Nielsen 9th January 2018

    Well… Stolen or not, the theme certainly relies upon very familiar gothic fantasy scoring tropes. And as for Benjamin’s “nod” to Zimmer… Since Ben’s a part of Zimmers “Remote Control” music production company, it’s safe to say that Zimmer supervised the making of this score – especially since much of the cello work and horror scoring techniques of said score is extremely similar to Zimmer’s usual scoring methodology. The score works well enough in the film, and the main theme is basically satisfying. But there is very little original materiale to be found here, in my opinion. Same could be said for the film itself.

    Reply
  3. Lorenzo Peyrani 26th January 2018

    Yes, that’s what I meant with “cold technique”. But, still, that “basically satisfying” melody, the only good in it, is Nick Drake’s.

    Reply

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