Original Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
The first of the year is often a mixed bag in cinemas. Theaters are full of prestige pictures hopeful of an awards bump or studio schlock that was deemed unreleasable at any point in the year prior. We do get an occasional diamond in the rough though. Lest we forget, last year’s indie horror hit The Witch was released in late February. That film was one of 2016’s best.
This year, Gore Verbinski hopes to fill that “first of the year” void with the release of A Cure For Wellness. The film stars Dane DeHaan as an ambitious executive tasked with retrieving the CEO of his company from a mysterious “wellness center” somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Of course, that “wellness center” isn’t quite what it seems. “the cure” might not be a cure at all. And getting his CEO to safety might be the least of this young man’s problems. Sounds sinister, yeah? By the looks of the trailer, A Cure For Wellness will be one hell of an eerie ride too. As with all eerie rides, music will play a major role in setting the tone. Verbinski enlisted Composer Benjamin Wallfisch to translate that tone into music. What Wallfisch transcribes is a wistful symphony of sorrow.
And you will feel a swell of anguish in the the opening moments of Wallfisch’s score. The haunting, child-like intonation that begins ‘Hannah and Volmer’ is painful and dreamy. It’s playful and wounded. It alludes to some great tragedy that lies ahead of its intoner … or perhaps behind. We can’t yet understand it. We may never. About a minute into that opening number, that voice is swallowed by a mournful piano and a stir of strings. It resurfaces momentarily in the album’s second track ‘Nobody Ever Leaves’, only to be engulfed by more strings and the swell of a spectral choir. Then it’s gone. But we feel its weight through every composition that follows.
The contemplative, orchestral noodling of ‘Bicycle’ takes on a supernatural tone in its wake. And the cavernous sonic terrain that opens ‘The Rite’ harkens to dark places unknown to the mind or the body … and then something starts to happen. Wallfisch begins filling all that space with sound. Strings whirl in the silence. Trumpets sound from the darkness. They blend and swell to crescendo. Then they become something altogether unexpected … a woeful and whimsical waltz.
From that moment on, Wallfisch weaves a wondrous, gothic web of sound from the shear excitement of the unexpected. His ‘Feuerwalzer’ spins from waltz to a chilling, action packed adventure with uncommon ease. He finds unfathomable grief in the lonely sounds of a toy piano and a xylophone on ‘Magnificent, Isn’t It’. The percussive calm of ‘Volmer Institute’ gives way to a desolate, introspective orchestra. The hushed disquiet that opens ‘Lipstick’ becomes a howling harbinger of doom.
Through every harrowing moment, a certain grandness shapes all of Wallfisch’s A Cure For Wellness compositions. His music shifts and turns and soars with near operatic grace. His songs become the inquisitive mind of a would-be liberator, the dark heart of a charlatan, the broken spirits of those who stand in his way and the fractured souls of those he’s encountered. It’s one of those souls that brings closure to Wallfisch’s symphonic sorrow. It comes in the waning moments of the desolate rumination that is ‘Volmer’s Lab’. It comes from a haunting, child-like intonation … long hushed but ever present. It’s painful and dreamy and playful and wounded. It seems to taunt that ‘there’s no solace here.’ You cannot doubt its sincerity. And you’re not likely to try.
A Cure For Wellness hits theaters Friday February 17. With Benjamin Wallfisch’s opulent and unnerving compositions in tow, A Cure For Wellness looks to be an immersive experience not to be missed. You’d do well to track a copy of that score down for yourself too. Milan Records will release that score in its entirety (digital, CD and vinyl) same day the movie hits theaters. That’s February 17 in case you weren’t paying attention. Yes, that stunning Mirel Wagner cover of ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ will be included.