The Knockturnal was on the red carpet for the New York Premiere of “A Cure For Wellness” presented by Prada at the legendary Sunshine Landmark Cinema where we talked the film’s composer Benjamin Wallfisch making music for movies and his personal project.
An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure. From Gore Verbinski, the visionary director of The Ring, comes the new psychological thriller, A Cure For Wellness.
Congratulations on tonight.
Benjamin: Thank you.
The music so far from what I’ve seen, has been very mysterious and kind of dark. Tell me what kind of inspiration did you draw on.
Benjamin: There was this incredible, almost year long journey I went on with Gore, where we were trying to discover what is the musical analog of a man who arrives in what appears to be a beautiful setting. He’s a corporate driven, ambitious, hard nosed, business guy. And he’s suddenly in this environment where up is down and left is right and there’s nothing that seems real is actually real. So there was this journey of discovery. Musically, we wanted to lead the audience into a very, almost a sort of place of false security and then bit by bit remove those pillars of security until you find yourself in a very unstable place.
That sounds terrifying.
Benjamin: I think the effect is pretty terrifying, but it’s also sort of, we tried to always create beauty. The film is so spectacularly beautiful, visually. And the whole progress of the story, at every turn there’s something intriguing and beautiful to immerse yourself in somehow. And so there was this, I think one of the ways we tried to, with the music, achieving something like that, was through the melodies and Hannah’s theme, which is this lullaby that has a very strangely dark and un-innocent side. Even though on it’s surface it’s very simple and childlike. It’s the way it develops. And then Volmer’s theme, which you hear first when you see the castle, when they’re driving up to the castle. That is something where, again, on the surface a very simple tune, but there’s no home for it. There’s no key, it’s constantly shifting it’s center. So I guess one of the things we try to do is just constantly change the center of gravity in the music and to keep people sort of slightly disorientated.
What are some of your other favorite horror scores that might have inspired you over the years?
Benjamin: Gosh, I’m a huge fan of so many, not necessarily horror, but Bernard Herrmann is probably one of my biggest heroes. So if you’re talking about horror, “Alien,” the original “Alien” score. But I think I’ve always returned to Herrmann as my go to “Psycho,” of course. Not just the famous shower scene, the rest of the score. It’s just a string orchestra. And a small string orchestra. He wants to create a black and white sound with just having strings and the “Vertigo” is one of my absolute go-to. So I think I always go to Bernard Herrmann if I need inspiration for horror music or more specifically for thriller music because this movie, there’s so much more to it than it just being horror. It’s, I think the, supernatural thriller aspect with the way it grabs you by the throat and will not let you go until the very last frame. You’re forced, almost, willingly to understand what is going on here and there’s this very exciting journey.
Let’s talk about some of your own private musical ambitions. Where can we hear your personal music?
Benjamin: Thank you, well, my music’s on iTunes, Spotify. I’ve been very lucky to work in film music for a number of years now. Prior to that, I was doing a lot of concert music for theater and ballet. Thing about being a composer, for me always been narrative that’s driven me more than anything else and even when I’m writing music that’s not for a movie, I love story and somehow finding structure through narrative and you apply that to even an abstract piece of music. It gives you something to really get your teeth into.