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Mad As Hell by Ronen Landa (Review)

posted Feb 18, 2015, 3:56 PM by Kaya Savas

A lot of documentary scores have been getting releases lately and I think it’s fantastic. I especially like it when a doc score doesn’t feel like a doc score. There is definitely a certain sound and approach that most composers take for documentaries, and in my opinion it sort of dissolves the narrative when that happens. Thankfully Ronen Landa approached this score as a man’s journey to the top, and helped the documentary feel like a narrative journey. Mad As Hell follows Cenk Uygur from his journey as a no-name public access news anchor to a YouTube sensation, and all the way to TV media where his style of journalism ended up being his downfall. Cenk Uygur is the founder of The Young Turks YouTube channel where he established himself as a no-bullshit type of reporter. This renegade journalist was all about making waves, and Ronen Landa’s score captures his personality and journey with a fantastic style.

Since this documentary follows the path of Cenk Uygur, it really is about him even though it’s making a commentary on journalism in today’s society. And talk about topical timing! The score has to reflect the subject and it does so very well. Cenk Uygur was born in Turkey and his network, The Young Turks represents everything about being a renegade and going against the grain. The score’s electronic and modern approach captures the brashness of his personality, but also echoes extreme focus. There is a precision to the music, everything feels very calculated and on point. Landa crafts some great thematic structures througout the score, and that’s what makes the score graspable. Not only do we have a distinct style and approach, but we have tangible themes. Since the film’s tone shifts around, the score does so as well and does so gracefully. The music can shift from somber and reflective to an energetic drive that keeps the journey moving forward. At times you’ll forget that this is a score to a documentary. Overall the music keeps you sucked in all the way through by capturing moments of success and defeat with ease. The music makes the story something you want to be invested in.

Mad As Hell is a great documentary on a great subject. Ronen Landa does a fantastic job of painting a musical portrait of Cenk Uygur, and taking us on his journey through the American media. I found the score was able to capture the loud personality of Uygur perfectly while still exercising precision to keep the narrative focused. The soundscape is a wholly original soundscape of guitars and electronics that is structured with care. I wasn’t fond of the soundbites included on the score album, but overall this is a fantastic documentary score that is worth discovering.