You would be forgiven for thinking recent release Kite is an uplifting affair (pardon the pun). Taken into consideration alongside the years and years of kites on screen, the very word cannot be uttered without producing a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Kite, the newest release from Ralph Ziman is rooted in a society in which violent gangs terrorise the streets. Light and breezy it is not. Taken from the Anime classic, the film tells the story of a young woman whose parents are the subjects of a double homicide. Void of a stable police force, she takes matters into her own hands, hunting down the dangerous gang responsible with the help of some unlikely friends. Morphing herself into a teen assassin, she takes on the big guys time and again only to realise that perhaps all is not as it seems.
Using the musical models from other dystopian films, composer Paul Hepker has created a score to match the film’s dark core. Capturing violence and aggression is one thing; Hepker’s real challenge lay in somehow balancing the unrelenting danger with a subtle poignancy, a vulnerability at the heart of the protagonist's journey. Looking to the DNA of Vangelis’s score for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Hepker explained how his challenge was to “create an electronic score that still had heart”. And with electronics a pound a penny into today’s scoring scene, the task was no small challenge.
With an opening cue that sounds suspiciously similar to Howard Shore’s After Hours in its early moments, it’s clear that Hepker’s cinematic and musical knowledge runs deep. ‘Comeuppance’ drops us right in the heart of things; there is no gradual build up in Hepker’s sound, he wants to make the listener feel instantly uncomfortable, instantly stranded in a place unfamiliar. Whilst there is no sense of continuation or cohesion in the sound, it seems very much as if this was Hepker’s purpose all along. Moving from strange sound to strange sound, the music makes it feel as if each motif is disposable, as if, once it has served its purpose, it can be forgotten. The effect is incredibly brutal; just as we become familiar with a particular rhythm or musical theme, Hepker has moved on to the next.
Each cue is surprisingly brief. And yet, each is entirely unique in its use of electronic sound. What Hepker has presented us with is not a cohesive, cinematic score but rather, a musical experimentation, a representation of the possibilities of sound. Each cue sums up a different, sinister facet of the film world and, ending sometimes abruptly, always leaves you wanting more. Cue ‘Get the Emir’, for example, uses electronic sound to an exceptionally chilling and beautiful degree. Whilst perpetuating something entirely dark and unnerving, it also draws you in closer; like a predator, it hooks its listeners.
A number of the experiments, inevitably, do not pay off. Whilst Hepker’s attempt at a more frenetic, unbalanced sound certainly should balance the slower paced numbers elsewhere in the soundtrack, when he ventures into faster waters, the music loses its effect. ‘Death by Dildo’, for example, fails to pack the punch of earlier cues. Moving all over the place, the end result is only jarring. ‘Stairwell Parkour’ fares similarly and perhaps would have sounded better placed in a ‘90s Euro trash club that in the score for Kite.
Like its on screen counterpart, Hepker’s score is multi-faceted, unnerving and completely unpredictable. At times alluring at others, repellant, it never ceases to push the boundaries of musical scoring. Leaving a more lasting effect in its representation of a more brooding danger, Kite lingers long in the memory after playing. And that is entirely down to Hepker’s innovative approach to musical composition. Whilst the film world can be left behind, the sound of the music follows you wherever you may go, underscoring everything you do, never letting go.