Simon Columb reviews Nitin Sawhney’s new soundtrack for the silent Alfred Hitchcock classic The Lodger…
Nitin Sawhney has become a sought-after film composer through successful scores for Nike adverts and BBC’s Human Planet TV series. This summer, in conjunction with Network Releasing and the BFI, Sawhney has composed a new score for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1926 silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. I cannot help but smile at the apt timing of this release during the summer whereby sun is the last weather we Londoners are expecting – fog is much more likely. In addition to this, the film stars Ivor Novello as a man suspected of being the serial killer known as (how perfect is this in 2012…) ‘The Avenger’. The film harks back to Hitchcock’s roots in German Expressionism as he uses angular shots and reflects the mental states of the characters in the arrangement of the shot itself – not dissimilar to Expressionist classics The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu.
Sawhney notes the influence of Bernard Herrmann – the exceptional composer who worked with Hitch on his most memorable films Vertigo and The Birds. You can feel his influence as strings pull the music forward through this score. The gentle, sweeping strings lure you into the story and fill your head with thoughts of murder, harking back to Psycho. In many instances, a single brass instrument will boldly dictate the melody as strings – possibly a harp – gently set the backdrop to the sequence.
Personally, the first score which I recalled when listening to this initially was A Single Man by Korzeniowski. Interestingly, Korzeniowski was hugely influenced by Herrmann too, even choosing a track from Vertigo to use within the film itself. The Lodger can sometimes move into smaller-scale piano melodies that don’t suit the huge London Orchestra Symphony that dominate the vast majority of the score – but it is often short-lived, before the sweeping strings pull you back into the majestic Herrmann-territory Sawhney aims to channel.
This truly is a fascinating score that uses the Hitchcock film to musically pay homage to an incredible composer. Sawhney doesn’t only imitate the style of Herrmann, he also manages to modernise the score by even introducing some vocals in the later tracks. Try and seek this score out, but be prepared for a couple of jarring moments whereby it drops from a grand and epic sound to cheap and fleeting moments that seem out of place.
The Lodger OST is released today, RRP £14.99.