THE FACTORY – Piotr Hummel

Original Review by Alan RogersThe Factory

I am of a certain age that I remember as a child avidly watching at TV show called “Screen Test”, a children’s quiz show about films. Part of the format was a young film-makers’ competition where viewers were invited to submit their homemade movies to be judged by a panel of experts (apparently Jan Pinkava, credited as a co-director on the Oscar-winning Pixar films Geri’s Game and  Ratatouille, won the competition in 1980). What I remember most about these animations was that the film-makers would sometimes use music clips from some of my favourite movie soundtracks. Today, technology availability is such that amateur animators can call upon budding composers to write original music rather than “adopt” previously-written music. Watching Polish directors Sebastian Kwidziński and Marcin Roszczyniała’s stop-motion animated short film, The Factory (Fabryka), reminds me somewhat of these Screen Test films, made by numerous passionately enthusiastic animators. A huge robot is kidnapping a number of people and transporting them to desert-located factory (of indeterminate function) where they are put to working in the mines. The film follows a couple of the captives as they attempt an escape from their prison. The score is composed by young Polish composer Piotr Hummel who succeeds admirably in providing a score that adds significantly to the enjoyment of this, sometimes crudely realised, animation that was six years in the making.

Hummel’s synth-based score is made up of a series of pieces that are centred on a variety of ostinato or rhythm-based compositions. Short motifs and electronic textures are mixed in with these repetitive devices to add some variety but what is lacking is any sort of any, what I would call, fully developed thematic material. The “Love Theme”, for example, is nothing more than a rising and falling wordless vocals motif with some low strings as a counterpoint that appears every time the love interest appears. It’s perfectly serviceable in the film is really only a hint of something thematic. This may be due to the nature of the film: there may not be much of an opportunity to write sweeping thematic melodies for a scene that’s only on-screen for 15-30 seconds. Hummel does say that (if Google Translate is to be trusted) he has had no formal musical training with his only real musical experience being as a drummer in a band for several years. His “musical education” is obviously via practical experience and learning. There are several points where Hummel’s score adds significantly to the feel of the animation. “Mine”, with its simply-realised waves of low tones and male vocals plus a vague reference to “Dies Irae”, enhances a scene of oppression felt deep in the mines and the first portion of “The Gate” uses oscillating low ostinato strings and mournful horns to help convey the tragedy of a desert scene full of discarded and mutilated toys (a sickening sliding pitch in the brass is particularly effective at accompanying the sight of a hanging toy Santa from a set of gallows!).

As was mentioned earlier, Hummel spent several years playing drums in a band and this knowledge of rhythm is translated to some nice ostinato sequences and varieties in percussion rhythms – all ideal for a film featuring huge robots, factories and episodes of peril. The low string ostinatos and snare drums peppered with brass fanfares of “Escape Plan” (reminding me a lot of Nick Park’s Aardman animation scores) and the pounding percussion heard in “Flight” definitely adds a sense of tension to the scenes they are featured in (the rhythm heard in “Flight” is very reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s title track from the excellent Total Recall). And the excellent start to “End Title” – again a pounding percussive rhythm – provides an emotional support to the escapee’s surprising decision that end the film before the cue melds into a different, Signs-like ostinato as the end credits roll. Hummel certainly taps into many devices that are familiar to anyone with more than a passing interest in film music; references to films such as Total Recall and Signs may not be new but they certainly work and are immensely listenable, and there is also the occasional move away from rhythm-driven ideas with “Slavery” containing several brass fanfares that Miklós Rózsa would have been proud of. The album closes with two “bonus tracks” that flesh out a couple of musical ideas used within the film into longer, 2-minute tracks.

Although Hummel’s score contains nothing new and does suffer somewhat with not really having a well-defined theme of any substance, his dexterity with rhythm and ostinato is something that certainly appeals to my ears. And his choice of instrument samples is pleasant to listen to in the musical world he has created in the film. It’s interesting to both see and hear what young, enthusiastic animators and composers are creating and gives a sense of what I would see if Screen Test were still on air and providing a platform for young film-makers to showcase their talents on national television. Piotr Hummel’s entire score for The Factory can be heard HERE on the composer’s Bandcamp page and the film can be viewed HERE. They are both worth your time.

Rating: **½

  1. Village – I (1:29)
  2. Hunt (1:39)
  3. The Gate (0:41)
  4. System Line (1:16)
  5. Mine (0:45)
  6. Slavery (0:54)
  7. Love Theme – I (0:19)
  8. Escape Plan (1:37)
  9. Love Theme – II (0:23)
  10. Flight (2:26)
  11. End Title (2:21)
  12. Factory (2:13)
  13. Village – II (1:56)

Running Time: 18:05 (2014)

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