For her directorial debut into the medium of the moving image, Del Kathryn Barton gives audiences the short film, RED, starring Cate Blanchett, Alex Russell, Arella Plater, and the Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap. The essential narrative in RED “illuminates the unusual mating rituals of the Australian Red Back spider. Here, our brave little male after copulating with the monumental female gently somersaults into her mouth, offering himself as a meal post-coital. If she is not hungry she will store his bound, dying body on her web for later consumption.” Barton further explained, “This brutal chronicle spoke to me of the poetics of female power as an inherent and indeed, elemental force in the universe. By intercutting human protagonists with extraordinary macro footage, RED has evolved into what I now consider to be an uncompromising celebration of female power.” Tom Schutzinger wrote the score.
The album contains just 5 cues that go for 11 minutes; it’s a short score but somehow I expect this one to be worth the time. Such a microscopical and violent adventure can inspire a composer to write great music; “Mother” opens this score with a frantic industrial sound where the percussion and aggressive guitar get my adrenaline pumping. It’s an insane cue that would work very well for a chase scene in a horror movie where the one being chased is not sure of his mental capacities. The cue gnaws and claws and plays like an acid trip.
It might be difficult for everyone to enjoy this score because of the aggressive and neurotic barrage of sound that often reminds me of the escape rooms in horror movies where the sounds come like nails, in violent bursts, and the light also violently flickers all the time to torture the characters. I imagine all this is better than the fate of the spider so the composer doesn’t do anything other than try to make us feel all that discomfort.
“Dead” is a quieter and more melodic requiem complete with a haunting vocal section, a musical exaggeration in what I am sure is meant as an allegory for female power and make destruction. I like it that such a short score is so dense and makes a very good use of its time to make an impression. It’s true, I don’t think I could have gone through a lot more of this uncomfortable atmosphere. But for what it was, I am glad I didn’t skip this one.
Cue rating: 72 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 3 / 11
Album excellence: 24%