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'Music' LFF 2023 Review: A Riddling And Allusive Modern Myth

'Music', dir. Angela Schanelec
Image courtesy of Getty / BFI London Film Festival

Music is a visual delight on a frame-by-frame level, challenging viewers to embrace the unseen. Based on the classic blinding of Oedipus Rex, the viewers of Music are likewise left to navigate the darkness of omission, oscillating between captivation and the director’s evasive storytelling. Indeed, it is a thrilling experience to be drawn into the director’s imagery whilst simultaneously being kept at a distance via the abolition of sound. I found myself compelled to seek understanding and ultimately liberated by Schanelec’s refusal to provide all answers.

One of Music’s most notable aspects is its use of visual storytelling. The film’s performances, while understated, are powerful in their subtlety. The cast’s ability to convey complex emotions without the crutch of explicit dialogue is a testament to their acting skills. The enigmatic performances add to the mystique of the film. I was struck by Schanelec’s visual choices as they accentuate both poise and form, elevating even mundane actions such as filling a glass with water to such a level of true elegance. The elusiveness of the narrative too, I believe, invites reflection upon the inherent mysteries of human nature, echoing an underlying theme of Oedipus Rex.

At the heart of Schanelec’s film lies the central theme of omission. Absences, temporal jumps and a deliberate departure from conventional logic mark the narrative. The camera becomes a silent observer, capturing subtle nuances in the characters’ expressions and actions. As a result, this non-verbal approach to storytelling urges the audience to immerse themselves in the characters’ psychological turmoil and moral dilemmas.

Thriving on ambiguity and the unsaid, Music challenges viewers to fill in the gaps, fostering a sense of intellectual and emotional involvement rarely encountered in contemporary cinema. For the first half-hour, there is a profound absence of human voices. Only after this mark does the first voice break the silence. Another thirty minutes pass before the first melody graces the audience’s ears. Until then, viewers are left to traverse a harsh and wild terrain, beautifully captured in stark and minimalist compositions.

The film leaves us with uncertainties, a sort of enigmatic puzzle if you will, as much is left unresolved by Schanelec. Music is a challenging and thought-provoking cinematic experience that defies convention and expects something from the audience. The narrative is so open to interpretation that viewers are invited to actively engage with what they see.

Music dances around the edges of language offering a unique take on the timeless story of Oedipus Rex. Whilst I stand with the belief that this may not be for every viewer, those who embody the patience to rely on visual language and unconventional storytelling will find Music to be a captivating and intellectually stimulating work of art.


Edited by Martha Knox, Co-Film & TV Editor