AQUA AD LAVANDUM – Stefan Maria Schneider

Original Review by Alan Rogers

When interviewed, Aqua ad Lavandum – In Brevi co-writer and co-director Florian Metzner half-jokingly commented that German student short drama films tended to have “…lots of dialogue…camera work that looks more like a documentary [and] no music”. Metzner and co-writer/director Helge Balzer’s short film from 2008 is a parable story examining the lengths someone will go to hide their guilt before finally coming face-to-face with their conscience. Almost exclusively featuring only a single actor within a dark, claustrophobic set, the film benefits greatly by a rich orchestral score written by young German composer Stefan Maria Schneider. Basing my assumption only on track titles, Schneider’s music is organised for the best listening experience with the highlights of the score, “Unleashing Impedim” and “Let’s Get This Over With”, starting off the score in a thrilling fashion.

After a Shostakovich-style brass fanfare, the music launches into an extremely dramatic passage with frenetic and swirling strings propelling the action forward with a prominent, though restrained, percussion section. Using only 50 members of the German Filmorchestra Babelsberg, Schneider succeeds in instilling the score with an energy that must have had the film-makers grinning from ear-to-ear when they first heard it. Towards the end of “Let’s Get This Over With” there’s heard a short brass fanfare motif that reminds me of a similar motif heard in Bernard Herrmann’s Journey To The Center of The Earth. The Herrmann feel continues in the middle portion of the score where, after the exhilaration of the score’s beginnings, things settle down to a more atmospheric feel. Using orchestrations that rely more on small-scale innovation (rather than bland electronic washes favoured in a lot of current scores that feature atmospheric passages) the Herrmann influences are continued, giving quieter cues such as “Aqua ad Lavandum” and “Washed Up” a level of interest that makes for good repeated listening value. A short, echoing woodwind device that surfaces several times during these quieter middle cues is something that certainly caught my attention as something I hadn’t really come across very often before in a score. This brief score comes to end with a level of quality that is characteristic of the score’s beginnings but this time, rather than being action-oriented, “Sad Man” is a study in restrained emotional power, with a beautiful theme played on solo strings before being passed between woodwinds and brass.

Overall, Stefan Maria Schneider’s score for Aqua ad Lavandum is a solid score. The apparent Herrmann influences mentioned earlier do not detract too much from the score. In fact, it’s definitely a positive for the atmospheric middle portion as Schneider seems to take Herrmann’s orchestration innovation and adapts it to his own style. Aqua ad Lavandum is another good example of the reservoir of worthy music being composed for short film that’s increasingly findings its way to a wider listening audience by being released as a digital title. The score is available at most major online digital stores.

Audio samples can be found HERE.

Rating: ***½

  1. Unleashing Impedim (3:25)
  2. Let’s Get This Over With (3:46)
  3. Aqua ad Lavandum (1:33)
  4. Washed Up (3:00)
  5. Hiding The Traces (1:42)
  6. Stained (1:18)
  7. The Case (1:42)
  8. Sad Man (2:25)

Running Time: 18:56

TIR (2009)


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