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Gravity by Steven Price (Review)

posted Oct 9, 2013, 7:38 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Oct 9, 2013, 7:39 PM ]


Gravity is Alfonso Cuarón's ever gestating space project that finally came to fruition this year. The film has been getting stellar reviews for its realistic depiction of outer space and subsequently throwing you into it. The opening of the film breaks it down for the audience: there is no air pressure, no oxygen, nothing to carry sound. While sound was used in the trailers to market the film, the set pieces in the final cut are absolutely silent. We hear what the characters hear. Their voices, their breathing, and vibrations of their suit bumping into things... and then there's Steven Price's score. This is Price's third feature film score, his second being The World's End from earlier this year. He is primarily a sound editor, having worked on such projects as Batman Begins, The Two Towers, The Return Of The King, and Edgar Wright's films. Here, Price creates the sonic soundscape of outer space. His music becomes the sound effects for the silent destruction that occurs on screen.

The music for this film is loud, and at times very overt in its presence in relation to the visuals. On the other hand, however, the idea it fulfills is a very neat one. For a film that prides itself of showcasing the cold silence of space, it is not very quiet. If an explosion occurs on screen, Price's score booms and ripples. While that idea of replacing sound effects with music is one I find fascinating and unique, it also contradicts the very essence of the film. It is hard to balance between the two, but on the whole Cuarón and Price succeed. There is an awesome motif for impending doom and destruction that can be heard in "Debris" and "Don't Let Go." In conjunction with the set pieces of space equipment being torn apart, the score works tremendously well. The music echoes, figuratively and literally, the narrative being told and the events unfolding. I don't want to give away too much information about the movie, but Cuarón has very clearly stated himself that it is an allegory for rebirth. There is some very obvious imagery in reference to it, and Price's score follows suit as well. There is a slow building in pressure running through the music that eventually mounts and releases during the climax. "In The Blind," "Aurora Borealis," and "Aningaaq" are where the music hits the brakes and underlines the vast hopelessness of the protagonist's story. Price is gentle here and there is a faint sense of longing and love embedded in these cues. "Soyuz" through "Gravity" is where the album holds no bars and Price's music continually expands and flourishes. The vocal that kicks in halfway through "Shenzou" and "Gravity" adds an incredible yet slightly overzealous feeling of triumph. The finale is possibly the score's strongest aspect, where the music crashes in at just the precise moment as if to signal the dawn of our species.

Gravity, both score and film, is a very ambitious project that ultimately succeeds in pulling the audience into the narrative. Steven Price takes some missteps in achieving the proper tone and mood, but the excitement and fervor that runs through the music more than makes up for it, particularly for a junior effort. The haunting sound design approach to the score slowly develops into a rushing wave of strings and vocals to send the listener off reeling yet riveted.