PERIHELION – Gergö Elekes

Original Review by Alan RogersPerihelion

Written and directed by József Gallai, Perihelion (2015) is a short Hungarian film about a husband who is trying to live his life after the death of his wife. He tries to live his life, carrying out the usual every day routines unchanged since the death of his true love: he sets out a second place at the dinner table. His adherence to his past life only reinforces the loss he has suffered. He spends much of his time putting his thoughts down on paper, typing away on his typewriter. We hear his thoughts, his outpouring of feelings with the words based upon the works of Hungarian poet Beke Tamás Tarsoly. His thoughts are of only loneliness and despair. The director, together with cinematographer Gergő Elekes, sucks any hope the man may have out of the film by using cold dark blue hues, drab grey tones and dark shadows. As well as reinforcing the husband’s emotional state, these cinematic choices also brings out in stark relief the flashbacks the man experiences when he thinks of happier times with his wife: bright golden sunlight-infused light frames these briefest of memories.

As well as cinematographer, Gergő Elekes writes a piano-based score that is sombre in its overall feel. Most of the early cues written for the film are short in length and act as subtle punctuations to the husband’s lonely daily struggle to exist. Delicate and fragile piano chords play a fragmented accompaniment early on and it’s not until about midway through the 13-minute score that there’s the hint of anything even remotely positive. The trio of tracks “Waking Up”, “The One Who Loves Me” and “Bathroom Memories” open with the ever-present piano, but alongside this there’s the subtlest of wordless female vocal accompaniment as we see the husband (as a flashback) watching his wife asleep in bed beside him (“Waking Up”). There’s also the introduction of a short, lighter piano motif played in a slightly higher register that seems to be associated with the man’s memories of happier times with his wife. “Bathroom Memories” represents the film at its happiest – again in flashback, the couple are enjoying life without a care in the world: a world bathed in a comforting golden light and the short, light piano motif adding to the happiness they are feeling.

But the man’s sombre existence is quickly re-established in “That Ritual Movement”, the longest track of the score, with the ever-present piano tolling out a repetitive ostinato pattern. Elekes’ motif here is constant, little changing and echoes the man’s failed attempts to feel something other than the bleakness when he pays for the company of a prostitute. He can only stare out of his apartment window until the prostitute shows herself out. By the end of the track, however, the appearance of a new aspect to the score – synth strings – over the piano ostinato signals something has changed: there’s an energy now to the man’s actions, perhaps even a purpose. Can the husband be on the verge of coming to terms with his loss?

The closing scenes of the film show the resilience of the human spirit to endure despite whatever darkness life may throw at us. Hints of the lighter piano motifs heard in “Bathroom Memories” appear again and now invaded the man’s everyday life as we see him drive out to the countryside (“The Hill”). And as we see the purpose of what it is that he is doing, we hear again the synth strings but now over a full statement of the “Bathroom Memories” motif that’s been keenly associated with his wife. Elekes’ various parts to the score suggests that the husband can begin to see a way forward from the pain and loneliness. Now, everyday situations act as positive reminders of his time with his wife rather than being memories that lead to reinforce lost hope. The final credits track, “Perihelion”, uses strings to double with the piano and now gives a familiar theme, earlier associated with the man’s depressing existence, a new lease of life and adding a level of optimism to suggest that there is hope for the future.

Gergő Elekes’ Perihelion is a strong score, particularly when heard in the context of the film. The film itself is a powerful drama that opens a window on the effects the loss of a loved one can have on someone. And the film’s impact is down primarily to the visuals and how the film is edited together. The music does play its role but tends to be quite restrained, with the subtleties being heard only with multiple viewings of the film and repeated listens to Elekes’ score. Gallai’s Perihelion is available to watch in its entirety HERE (don’t forget to activate the subtitles) and Elekes’ score is available to buy HERE, and where it can be heard in full.

Rating: ***

  1. I Followed My Father (0:24)
  2. I Am Not Alive (0:35)
  3. The Window (0:24)
  4. Waking Up (0:36)
  5. The One Who Loves Me (0:44)
  6. Bathroom Memories (1:01)
  7. That Ritual Movement (4:40)
  8. Photo (0:39)
  9. The Hill (3:27)
  10. Perihelion (1:11)

Running Time: 13:46

Gergő Elekes (2015)


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