$9.99 is a stop-motion animated film from director Tatia Rosenthal and is based on a series of short stories penned by Israeli-born writer Etgar Keret. The film follows a group of people who all live in the same Sydney apartment block and whose lives are all interlinked in some way. They all have one thing in common: they are dissatisfied with their lives and they believe that by finding “something” things will be better. But none of them know what that something is. One character buys a book (for $9.99) that’s all about the meaning of life but it doesn’t help answering any his questions. Paradoxically, the answers he seeks are being played out all around him.
Continuing his collaboration with the director, American-born composer Christopher Bowen uses a small ensemble of instruments (piano, strings, percussion) as well as electronics to give the film a “small-scale”, intimate and interesting score that makes particularly effective use of plucked strings and rhythm. Bowen’s drive to give the distinctive-looking film an equally distinctive-sounding score is set out right from the start with “The Sunshine Coast”. Backed by a catchy drum percussion rhythm, the cue features what sounds like some unusual reed-type woodwinds (or perhaps an electronic equivalent). Together, they give the track an upbeat and energetic sound. This sound is quite a surprise as film reviews talk of the characters’ stories being somewhat depressing. The use of plucked strings alongside keyboards maintains the unusual feel to the score and pizzicato is the foundation for a theme that is heard numerous times throughout the score (examples include “The Truffle Shaves”, “A Girl Only Better” and “The Meaning of Life”). Although a lot of music is very minimalist in terms of the number of instruments he uses and the aural space they are given in the cues, the composer gives variety to the theme in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »