Erased Tapes – July 7th
As a black-clad Robert DeNiro stalks the halls of a decrepit and peeling Ellis Island, each step accompanied by the icy piano motifs of Woodkid and Nils Frahm, its easy to imagine the gravitas of the situation millions found themselves in. Caught between a rock and a hard place, desperate to forge a new life in a strange country, it’s a narrative that draws comparisons with today’s current refugee crisis.
As such, the prevailing tone of both film and soundtrack is a sombre one. Delicate pianos are accompanied by little more than an analogue crackle, an occasional intake of breath or the imposing weight of a single bass note. Such a sparse composition is reflected in the starkness of the film’s palette; the washed out blue/grey hues the filmic equivalent of Woodkid’s solemn arrangements.
Like many of the journeys it seeks to draw parallel with however, it’s not a soundtrack without optimism. ‘Winter Morning Pt 1’ builds both effortlessly and elegantly, resulting in a crescendo of subtly introduced strings that become swells behind the aforementioned piano motifs.
‘…Pt 2’ is a little different. Beginning with an ominous bell chime, off-kilter key changes are prevalent while a droning bass exacerbates an already growing tension. It’s here that DeNiro’s monologues are brought to the fore; recounting the true story of a migrant who hid on the island after being rejected upon his arrival.
While the soundtrack itself is certainly impressive, to truly appreciate the entirety of the work watching the film is essential. As DeNiro paces the rooms of the island’s hospital complex, greeted by a solitary chair, a locker or quite often nothing but fractured light through the decaying walls, the sheer loneliness of those who once stayed on the island, however fleetingly, is magnified ten fold by the chilly subtleties of the film’s score.
Words by Dave Beech