Red Krokodil is a film telling the story of the deteriorating existence of a drug addict living in a post-nuclear city. The addict (Brock Madson) is addicted to the morphine-derivative Krokodil and the film follows his hallucinatory decline and physical deterioration. Krokodil, a street name for the morphine derivative desomorphine, is a relatively easy drug to manufacture but is severely toxic because little is done to remove the byproducts and leftover chemicals used for its synthesis (e.g., phosphorus, hydrochloric acid, paint thinners, etc.). The presence of these toxic chemicals means that users can suffer severe tissue damage and breakdown and Italian director Domiziano Cristopharo has used this physical disintegration as a metaphor for Madson and society’s descent into ruin. The director calls again on the talents of German-born composer Alexander Cimini (they previously worked on the film Bellerofonte) to provide the music for this film from 2012 and the composer delivers one of the best albums to be released this year. From what little I know about Cristopharo’s film, Cimini’s score could well have been a dour effort to echo the protagonist’s decline. Instead, the composer’s emotional score expertly combines the hallucinatory drug-altered experiences of “Him” (Madson) and the episodes of loneliness and despondency in his life with feelings of optimism, hope and release/liberation.
The score opens with “C_age”, a foreboding and threatening track filled with a variety of shifting sounds: ominous rumblings, plucked and screeching strings, tolling percussive beats and, what sounds like, whispering vocals. The track’s heard during the opening credits where we watch the crude process that goes into making Krokodil, the images intercutting with the credits in rhythmic sync with the music. Originally written for a separate piece of experimental video-art, the director wanted some sort of a leitmotif for the altered hallucinatory state of Madson’s character and fragments of “C_age” appear frequently whenever he’s seen “under the influence”. The use of electronic textures and orchestral dissonances is a prominent feature of the score and it’s interesting to note that for this aspect of the score Cimini returns several times to music he has composed for previous projects. The electronic washes and textures of “Endless Roads” originally from his score written for his own film M.A.R.C.O. and the dissonances contained within the 5-minute track “W(t)OMB” (composed for another earlier experimental video-art project) flesh out the darker aspects of the score. “W(t)OMB” is particularly interesting in that the closing moments of this cue features a beautiful theme played by a cello solo that becomes a main theme for the film itself (“Red Krokodil – Main Theme”).
It’s this theme heard in the second track of the album, “Red Krokodil – Main Theme”, that signals what makes this score such a find. Using a heartachingly beautiful solo cello (played by Sebastiano Severi), lush strings and a hint of uplifting brass, Cimini lays out a theme that’s full of optimism and oozing with openness, a sense of release or liberation but the theme is framed with an overriding sadness. Then, after a powerful orchestral crescendo, a delicate piano layers a note of fragility over everything. The score’s closing cue, “The Window”, gives us this beautiful theme again but this time there’s the full force of the orchestra used, heightening the sense of liberation – whether it’s a release from the protagonist’s physical life or more a mental/emotional escape I don’t know. Whatever the origins for this piece, it’s certainly an uplifting conclusion to the score; as though radiant sunshine has suddenly flooded the protagonist’s world. The remainder of the score is firmly grounded in sadness, loneliness and despondency and this effect is effectively achieved by Cimini’s reliance on the use of solo instruments, particularly the solo violin (credited to Roberto Noferini). But the music in no way makes the listener feel depressed since Cimini’s writing is so strong. “My Little Green Crocodile” and “Reflection In The Water” are particularly good examples of the power the composer’s theme. Furthermore, whether it’s the characteristic tone of the solo violin or the thematic material itself, the score has a subtle Russian flavour to it that emphasises the story’s location. The use of a balalaika (“Alone”) is a more obvious signpost with regard to the geographical location of the story.
Alexander Cimini’s award-winning score for Red Krokodil is excellent and the album – released on the Kronos Records label – is recommended unreservedly. It’s beautifully written and the music is enhanced by some great solo violin and cello performances. It’s safe to say that Cimini is clearly a significant talent worth watching over the coming years, not just because of the music he has composed specifically for Red Krokodil but also on the evidence of the previous compositions he has composed and which are featured on the album: not just the aforementioned tracks “C_age” and “W(t)OMB” but also the final track on the album, “Passion and Love?”, which is another powerfully emotive piece written for Cristopharo’s 2011 horror film, Hyde’s Secret Nightmare (which contains a score by Kristian Sensini). Red Krododil is available both as a physical CD release and digital version and it should be noted that the CD version contains an extra track, “Capuccetto6” by Gabriele Verdinelli, a dissonant track more akin to tracks such as “C_age” than the title theme. Audio clips for the digital release can be heard HERE and the album can be purchased at all the usual online stores.
- C_age 1 (3:39)
- Red Krokodil – Main Theme (5:53)
- Alone (2:35)
- My Wounded Body (2:13)
- My Little Green Crocodile (2:21)
- Endless Roads 2 (3:03)
- My Mind (1:59)
- Reflection In The Water (2:15)
- Prologue (2:49)
- W(t)OMB 3 (5:13)
- Capuccetto6 4 (3:33)
- The Window (2:56)
- Passion and Love? 5 (7:05)
- 1 Music from the video-art piece “C_age” by Davide Mastrangelo & Francesca Leoni
- 2 Music from the motion picture M.A.R.C.O. (dir: Alexander Cimini)
- 3 Music from the video-art piece “W(t)OMB” by Davide Mastrangelo & Francesca Leoni
- 4 Music composed by Gabriele Verdinelli
- 5 Music composed for Hyde’s Secret Nightmare (dir: Domiziano Cristopharo)
Running Time: 45:34
Kronos Records KRONCD045 (2014)