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Marcel Vaid scores animation film 'Chris the Swiss' (Semaine de la Critique - Cannes - 13 May)

 

Swiss-German composer Marcel Vaid creates exceptional score to animated documentary 'Chris the Swiss'

'Chris the Swiss' by Anja Kofmel will premiere
on Sunday 13 May
@ Semaine de la Critique in Cannes
 

Award-winning composer Marcel Vaid has created an intensely strong score to Anja Kofmel's extraordinary story 'Chris the Swiss'. This hybrid film combines both animated scenes and high-quality old school documentary sequences, all perfectly connected thanks to its intriguing score. Conductor André Bellemont made the Budapest Art Orchestra translate Marcel Vaid's composition using the unique 'sound painting' technique.
Chris the Swiss will have its world premiere on Sunday 13 October at the 'Semaine de la Critique' in Cannes.

Listen here to 'The Scarf' from the Chris the Swiss OST 
composed by Marcel Vaid

In Chris the Swiss director Anja Kofmel investigates the murder of her cousin and journalist Chris Würtenberg. He was found dead in January 1992, in the midst of the Yugoslav Wars, in mysterious circumstances, wearing the uniform of an international mercenary group. Twenty years later director Anja Kofmel goes hunting for clues. Beginning with the day of Chris' death and his diary as a guide, she starts to retrace his last steps. Her courageous investigation leads to Chris’ family members and contemporary witnesses such as his journalist comrades, mercenaries of the PIV and even to ex-terrorist «Carlos the Jackal», all personalities who were deeply involved in this war.

The director’s personal view on the story is told in animated sequences, thereby developing a poetic dimension. There are real scenes as well as extensive archive material, documenting the journalistic side of the story and acting as an extended counterbalance to the child’

 

This excerpt shows director Anja Kofmel at work, explaining why she wants to understand what happened to her cousin Chris. The musical theme 'Just like you', composed by MARCEL VAID, represents the theme of Anja as little girl and becomes, as Anja's point of view evolves throughout the film, more abstract towards the end of the film.

Without losing its subjectivity, the narrative perspective changes gradually and develops from a child’s point of view to the more sophisticated and critical examination of the adult author.
The soundtrack of the film plays a distinct part, unifying the animated sequences with the journalistic side of the story, including archive material. To that end composer Marcel Vaid worked closely together with both filmmaker Anja Kofmel and sound designer Markus Krohn.

"In order to find the right sound for this powerful documentary, Anja and I watched a lot of different movies and listened to tons of music such as György Ligeti, John Cage, Steve Reich, Max Richter, Tortoise, 'Good Speed You My Black Emperor' or Merzbow. For this dark story set in war, we were looking into the scene of drone and noize music, which I have followed for over 20 years, above all with my band Superterz. Films such as Solaris (2002), The Ghostwriter, Arrival or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo therefore were important sources of inspiration.
As there was absolutely no sound available during the score production process, we had to use our imagination while working on the music. I had to invent a musical room for Chris' animations, trying to catch how the abstract world of Chris would sound, what Anja's nightmares would sound like or how 'war' should be sonically represented."

 

 

 

Following excerpt illustrates the nightmares director Anja used to have as a little girl. The track 'The Girl's Nightmare' was composed by Marcel Vaid. Composer Marcel Vaid explains how he tried to catch the two important recurrent elements in Anja's nightmares, water and insects, and included them into the film score: "The image a significant part of the score is based upon, is the recurring picture of flying insects in the animation parts of the film. That symbolic motif represents Chris becoming more and more attracted to 'war' and 'death' as soon as he joins a militant mercenary responsible for ethnic cleansing at the frontline of Serbia. As rumour has it that these troups were mostly financed by Opus Dei, I included a subliminal choir reference in those scenes. In order to develop reverse singing tonality, we collaborated with internationally acclaimed singer Lauren Newton."

"For the musical representation of the flying birds and insects, we were lucky that the musicians of the Budapest Art Orchestra - who also recorded late Johann Johannsson's Sicario -  were willing to improvise according to sound-painting rules. Thanks to this technique, the movement of the flying birds and insects represent the dynamic aspect of the score. On the other hand, the zooming noise the animals make, were translated through unusual improvisation with brass, woodwind and percussion players."

Listen here to 'The Trench' from the Chris the Swiss OST
composed by Marcel Vaid

 

 

Recording session of Marcel Vaid's score to Chris the Swiss: musicians of the Budapest Art Orchestra, conducted by André Bellmont, improvise according to sound painting rules. "During the score production process, there was an intense and constant exchange of ideas with sound designer Markus Krohn and the foley artist. Together we decided that the sound design should focus on the higher registers of the soundtrack, for instance representing the insect fluttering of their wings, whereas the music should go into the deeper, more emotional, sublime register. For me, one of the most important challenges was to connect the different parts of film material to each other. From the talking heads, to the personal journey of director Anja, to her subjective point of view in the animation, to archive material from the war: it all had to be edited into one flow."

 

Following excerpt illustrates how the different types of film material are linked to each other thanks to the soundtrack.  "My idea was to connect these separate sequences with one cinematic sound and play with different, foremost rhythmical and minimal, motifs. Several motifs were subtly repeated where needed, giving the story a degree of unity and coherence."

 

 

The track called 'The New World' is a nice example of the different layers within Marcel Vaid's composition.  "For the historic and more rhythmical parts, I developed a four-pattern piece of music, combining pre-recorded minimal samples, including both samples on guitar, hang drum, balinesic gongs that I recorded myself and samples from the recording sessions with the orchestra. I mixed them with warm orchestra strings, to give the main themes warmth and space and added synthetic bass-lines and moog sounds in order to create the necessary pulse. On top of that, I added a couple of minimal wind and brass patterns as the fourth level. Towards the end I reworked the orchestra recordings by looping, distroying and remixing the sounds, which resulted into some very nice experimental textures."

Listen here to 'Chris Voice on Radio' from the Chris the Swiss OST 
composed by Marcel Vaid

Find here an overview of the planned screenings for 
'Chris the Swiss' @ Semaine de la Critique:

  • 13/5 11:30 Miramar
  • 13/5 17:15 Miramar
  • 13/5 22:30 Miramar
  • 14/5 08:30 Miramar
  • 14/5 16:30 La Licorne
  • 15/5 16:30 Le Raimu

About Marcel Vaid:

Swiss-German composer with Indian roots, musician (guitarist) and music producer Marcel Vaid works for film and theatre and has composed for over 70 fiction and documentary films, including My Name is Salt, Goodnight Nobody, The Congo Tribunal, Tandoori Love, Zara, Köpek and The Day the Sun Fell.
Vaid is known for creating an individual language and discrete soundscape for every project. With his motto LESS IS MORE in mind, Marcel Vaid describes himself as a sound explorer who develops his musical compositions by using real instruments or field recordings, elaborating on them in the editing process during post production.
His film work has been acknowledged on several occasions, amongst others with three wins of the 'Swiss Film Prize Quartz', the 'Prize of SUISA-fondation for music' in Locarno and the 'Prix de la meilleure création musicale' at the Premiers Plans festival in Angers. 
Marcel Vaid owns recording studio LIFT in Zürich, Switzerland and is the head of the electro-acoustic experimental collective Superterz. Over the years, Marcel has collaborated with several international musicians, such as Nils Petter Molvaer, Toshinori Kondo, Mauro Pawlowski (dEUS), Marianne Schroeder (John Cage), Al Comet (The Young Gods), Burnt Friedman, Koichi Makigami (Hikashu) and many others.

Synopsis 'Chriss the Swiss', documentary by Anja Kofmel:

Croatia, January 1992. In the midst of the Yugoslav Wars, Chris, a young Swiss journalist is found dead in mysterious circumstances. He was wearing the uniform of an international mercenary group. Anja Kofmel was his cousin. As a little girl, she used to admire this handsome young man; now a grown-up woman, she decides to investigate his story, trying to understand what really was the involvement of Chris in the conflict…

 

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