This looks like one of the most terrifying movies ever made, and it’s a documentary. The trailer may send chills up your spine. How can a nation begin to love a leader responsible for millions of deaths, all too many in unmarked graves? Is the past so horrible that it must be denied? What lengths will one go to in order to make peace with one’s heritage? These are the haunting questions raised by The Red Soul, Jessica Gorter’s challenging film about the legacy of Stalin.
The unsettling half-hour score, presented by Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) along with Ilia Belorukov (saxophone) and René Aquarius (percussion) mingles nationalistic pride and distorted nostalgia. Zuydervelt’s crackling vinyl samples include Soviet folk songs and fragments of the dictator’s speeches. The ironic cover portrays a whitewashed history that continues to bleed through, conjuring memories of scratched out photographs and amended truths. The music is similarly abraded, at times nearly silent, reflecting the voices of the lost. Even today the fates of many are unknown, the echoes of their lives similarly muted, the mention of their names an act of courage or defeat.
At times the saxophone is present only in hunched breath, notes disintegrating before they break through. The clear samples battle the injured, yet newer additions, as if the past bore the current of certainly and the present could not be trusted. Still the choir sounds forlorn, their tone conveying more than their words. The loops serve as reminders that the most traumatic memories tumble on infinite repeat.
The Red Soul joins Crumble and Sneeuwstorm as standouts in Zuydervelt’s recent discography. Their common denominator is a shared length; in fact, only seventeen seconds separate the first two. The long form allows the composer room to breathe and to develop his compositions; his patience results in immersive, story-like presentations. The year may be young, but the emotion of this film score will make it hard to surpass; kudos to the director for making such a creative choice. (Richard Allen)