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Soundtrack review: 1922 (Mike Patton – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: 1922 (Mike Patton – 2017)

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Featuring shades of Edgar Allen Poe’s [“A Tell-tale Heart” and] “The Black Cat”, 1922, with a Bonny and Clyde sub-plot, based on the Stephen King novella of the same name, centers on simple but proud farmer, Wilfred James, who, with his young son, murders his wife to gain ownership of her inherited land. Shortly after, however, strange and supernatural occurrences begin to plague both James and his farm. Is it just simple bad luck, or is it the work of something much more sinister? Mike Patton wrote the score.

Whenever the name of a musician from one of my favourite bands of the 90s shows up in the film music world I like to do a census and remark all my favourite artists from that age who made the cross to this genre… Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, System of a down and, of course, Faith No More. Mike Patton was among the first who brought his experimental genius to the film music world and now he scores a Stephen King based movie and I have to say I noticed the music in context as it was poignant, piercing and fitted the sparse, hallucinatory nature of the story. It’s all in the first two cues as “No grave for mama” is an inexplicable sonic experiment that has nothing to do with music and more with the sound of wood creaking under the pressure of weight and moisture, and then “Mea culpa” which is a heartbreaking string based melody.

The sparse and piercing string sound continues in “Sweetheart bandits” to make a heavy dramatic cue that spells doom and fatality. Mike Patton uses and abuses the strings in a way that reminds me of how Nick Cave and Warren Ellis do it. As always, and if you’ve heard his past scores, you know, Mike Patton goes wild with sound experiments at some point in this score. I just close my eyes and imagine the studio or whatever where he recorded it and imagine how he hits different things from that room, be they instruments or not, how he rubs things together and crashes things together in a way that makes “Death of a marriage” sound intriguing. “Murder is work” is one of the cues that stuck with me when I saw the movie, sneaky and with dark humour.

“1922” is a sad, weird, uncomfortable score that will rarely please melodic music lovers. It is the right score for this movie though and a composition that amazingly manages to capture on its own the strange, lonely, road to insanity like atmosphere of the movie. It’s a score that will affect you and evoke a time and place about as far away from your life setting that it will be to intriguing not to listen to. I enjoy Mike Patton’s experiments.

Cue rating: 68 / 100

Highlights:
Mea culpa
Cornfield – horizontal
Sweetheart bandits 2: We all get caught

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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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