Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals grabs the audience from the jump with a one-two punch of sound and image that likely won’t be topped in 2016.
The film’s credits sequence — which was already the talk of high-profile film festivals in Venice and Toronto earlier this year — features a group of overweight, naked women dancing as Abel Korzeniowski’s intoxicating score plays over the imagery.
“The opening is incredibly complex,” Korzeniowski tells EW of the theme, “Wayward Sisters,” which is available to stream exclusively below. “It feels detached until you start thinking about what it actually means.”
Based on the book by Austin Wright, Nocturnal Animals stars Amy Adams as Susan, a dissatisfied art dealer in Los Angeles who has her world turned over when she receives a manuscript from Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), her ex-husband. Tony’s story, also called Nocturnal Animals, is a revenge thriller set in West Texas, and includes echoes of their long-since-failed relationship. (Gyllenhaal has a dual role in Ford’s film, with Adams lookalike Isla Fisher playing his wife in the story-within-the-story.)
But before all the twists and turns of Nocturnal Animals play out, there’s that first sequence. Korzeniowski says he and Ford discussed how the opening credits were like a Shakespearean prologue for the dreamy film — and the composer even culled the track’s title from characters in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. “This is an opening of the story — of a fairytale, in a way,” Korzeniowski says.
“Then, as you go deeper, and you analyze Susan, our protagonist — in a way, she gave up everything that is genuine in her, and she got instead her castle,” he adds. “Her concrete, beautiful house and life. And yet she is unhappy. The opening features these incredible women unashamed of themselves, projecting this uncanny energy. There’s something exuberant about this. It’s mesmerizing. There’s obviously a shock factor in the beginning, but once you start watching it, there’s something truly beautiful there. They are everything that Susan is not. They’re opening their true personalities. They let themselves be who they are.”
The “Wayward Sisters” melody threads throughout Nocturnal Animals, and if listening to the track recalls Bernard Herrmann’s scores for Alfred Hitchcock, that’s not an accident.
“The reference to Hitchcock is something that is always very appealing with what Tom does,” Korzeniowski, who also scored Ford’s A Single Man, says. “There’s always this element present in there. But then as we keep working on the particular scenes, it really comes down to wrestling with what you actually can say and what the scene is. So stylistically, I am absolutely conscience of the inspiration, especially if you talk about the simplicity and purity of Bernard Herrmann’s melodies. You don’t need very elaborate orchestrations to appreciate those themes. This is something I aspire to in my own music. … But put it this way: for every scene, Tom has a very specific feeling in mind. How we should understand a scene on a both an production level and emotional level. The balance is often very hard to achieve. We just try many times until we get it.”
Listen to “Wayward Sisters” below; Nocturnal Animals is out in limited release on Dec. 9.
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/289985960" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]