Having been party to only a handful of these screenings with the extra added bonus of a live-performed score, I am still relatively overwhelmed by such things as the synchronisation, interpretation of images, musician’s impeccable timings. Inevitably it is also difficult to keep one’s mind focused directly on the film, making it a whole new experience of film-inhalation, as the distractions are clearly present, throughout Mica Levi’s live scoring at the Southbank Centre.
A stark nod to the likes of avant-garde directors such as Stanley Kubrick, this time Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin leaves some of the audience baffled, perhaps lending them despondent, perhaps to the sniffles at points when you understand her frustration within her skin, and even more so those who have read Michel Faber’s book with the same title. A surreal piece of cinematography that sees Scarlett Johansson play a cold-hearted, and at times despondent character who survives in the feral, dystopian underbelly of Glasgow, involving tar, skin deformation and a white Transit van.
Despite the dark undertones of the film, Mica Levi, composer and widely known for Micachu and the Shapes, detached the audience from the licks of vicarious disrepute, as this wonderful synched up orchestration forced them to engage with the live performance. Despite a silhouette under the big screen her presence is pronounced, exacerbating the alien detachment throughout this film, despite the orchestra’s alluring performance.
Pulling the audience away from the cinematic, the movements of the live human orchestra hint at some of the more humane aspects of Johansson’s character. Impeccably synched, this astonishing live scoring effectively allows us to think about the alien and more gentle, alluring stature of this alien oddity.
One of the musicians who played both at this live scoring, and on the recording of the OST to Glazer’s controversial artistic engineering, Emma Smith gave me a little insight into the workings of this fantastic one-off Meltdown cultural juxtaposition, “I absolutely love Mica’s band ‘Micachu and the Shapes’, so when I was asked to record on the soundtrack for ‘Under The Skin’ I was very excited. The score that she has written for the film is one of the most exciting scores I’ve heard for any film. The textures are amazing. So yes, playing it live was fantastic. She also happens to be a pretty nifty conductor as it turns out, despite having very little experience at this.”
“After the recording session for ‘Under The Skin’, having seen small sections of the film, I had the feeling it was going to be brilliant, so I made sure I went to the cinema to watch it properly before doing the live soundtrack at Meltdown. It’s definitely one of the best films I’ve seen for ages. I can’t stop thinking about it…”
Emma like several of her peers that were playing fiddle in orchestra highlighted the films’ attributes, whilst also allowing the audience to engage with the film in a way that would not be possible without this entirely fantastically alluring experience. Their uniquely flawless playing, brilliantly timed, added textual layers to this film, or at least enhanced those that were perhaps sitting flatly in comparison to watching it under this premise. It is not despite the silhouetted distraction that we are able to take meaning from this film; if it was not from this human interaction and skill then a great deal of this meaning would appear lost.