A year end Californian Institute of the Arts (CalArts) project directed by Eusong Lee, Will (2012) is a 5-minute animated short that focuses on a girl who is finding it difficult coming to terms with the death of her father has been killed on 9/11. We see her listening to a voicemail message left by her father when he tried to call her during the chaotic moments between the two plane impacts. She is looking at photos and newspaper clippings of the disaster that are strewn across the floor of the apartment. The girl wishes that time could be turned back. As she is playing with a yo-yo (given to her by her dad), we see the fall of the yo-yo mirroring her dad falling from the World Trade Center tower. As the toy drops to its lowest point we see the father’s fall halted and he is momentarily suspended in mid-air. And as the yo-yo begins its upward journey, returning to the girl’s hand, her father’s descent is reversed, he begins to rise and his whole morning rewinds until the girl is safely back in her father’s arms: the girl has retreated into her imagination as a way of dealing with her loss.
The score, composed by fellow CalArts student Julian Kleiss, is a three-minute piece for guitar (played by the composer) entitled “Silent Nights (A Tribute To The Victims of 9/11” that is sparse in nature and which compliments the minimalist style of the animation.. In the film, the track is bookended by her father’s voicemail messages . It is clear that he knows how serious the situation is but he is trying to remain positive. The girl is listening back to the message knowing how the events have unfolded and Kleiss’ score begins as the girl begins to play with her yo-yo once the message has concluded. Various layers of carefully realised guitar melodic lines build one upon the another as the cue progresses. At about the midway point of the cue Kleiss – aided by sound designer Paul Fraser and sound engineer Tomio Ueda – takes one of the melodic lines and layers it over the other parts but adds it in the reverse direction. This mirrors the reversal of her father’s fate in the girl’s imagination and as the girl’s yo-yo returns to her hand. Once her father is back with the girl they hug the music ends.
Kleiss’ music is beautiful to listen to and he has crafted a piece of music that is in keeping with the whole tone of a film that beautifully captures, in one small example, how devastating the events of that day were for countless numbers of people. As well reflecting the tone of the music, he also managed to reflect how the girl has chosen to cope with her loss in the music. Since the score is relatively simple in construction and uses only guitar the trick of playing the music backwards works well and is not too distracting. In fact, the reversal has been so well handled that the entire track can be reversed using your favourite audio manipulation software and it plays almost as well and sounds remarkably similar to the original.
Will is a heartbreakingly beautiful piece of music where less is definitely more. According to imdb.com, this is Julian Kleiss’ first “major” scoring project (though he does have a debut album of original non-film music guitar compositions and cover versions out soon). Hopefully, more film scoring projects will come his way. The score to Will is available as a digital download from most online stores and is also available as a “name-your-price” download at bandcamp.com. Eusong Lee’s animated short can be viewed HERE.
Audio samples can be found HERE.
- Silent Nights (A Tribute To The Victims of 9/11) (2:49)
Running Time: 2:49