Latest reviews of new albums:

A gripping, intense thriller directed by Romain Gavras, Athena is the sort of political cinema which sets minds and bodies stirring and was once far more common than today, from filmmakers like ‎Gillo Pontecorvo and Costa-Gavras. And, well, that’s the second time I’ve used the name Gavras: the apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. For my money it’s easily the best film I saw which was released in 2022 – far more sensible people than me have determined that it isn’t as good as Top Gun: Maverick, though I find it extraordinary that it hasn’t received more awards attention.

The film occurs over a short time frame and watches what happens when a French community collapses into anarchy when one of its own is slain by the police. It is raw, visceral, very powerful – its mostly young and mostly little-known cast excel, and it features a string of technical achievements including stunning cinematography and a genuinely surprising musical score.

Benoit Heitz

I say it’s surprising because it is – what do you expect the music from a film like this to sound like, in 2022? Electronic pulses, groans – an assault on the aural senses, most likely. When it’s credited to “GENER8ION” you probably just go further down that track. GENER8ION appears to be the label applied to various media activities overseen by director Gavras – but this music is the product of the French DJ and musician Benoit Heitz, more commonly known as Surkin.

His score is genuinely brilliant both in context and on album. There’s a main theme, subtitled “Les princes de la ville” – strings chopping frantically away, a female choir chanting a religious text while another female choir oohs-and-aahs behind them – sometimes Heitz adds a drum kit over it – whatever he does with it, the results are spectacular. It’s the basis of three of the cues on the short album, each of which is brilliant in its own way – perhaps the best is the “Requiem” that closes it.

The polyphonic choir that runs through “Rekky” has so much going on – multiple layers of voices, each layer doing its own thing but blending together beautifully effectively (though beauty is not the first thing that springs to mind with the result – it’s discordant, full of edge, all these sounds playing off each other – brilliant film scoring, and brilliant music). After that comes “Starlight” – multiple keyboard lines, strained anguish clearly conveyed by the choir – it’s stunning in how well it hits its intended target. In “Assault”, a deep male choir takes over, singing a distinctly catchy melody but Heitz makes it so sinister, again in no small part due to the religious feel he gives it.

I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about the film – a vibrant, vital, important work. And I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about the music – the same applies. I highlighted a few of them above but in truth each track is a complete piece of music with its own story to tell. They come together as a whole brilliantly well – there is so much passion in this score, the composer has so much to say. It’s undoubtedly one of 2022’s most impressive film scores.

Tags: , ,

  1. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Saturday 18 February, 2023 at 07:46

    Thanks for bringing this score to my attention, James, it’s a good one. Got a very distinctive sound to it – if anything it reminds me at times, in feel if not in sound, of Tron Legacy. Got that sense of soulful melancholy that you get from really good electronic music, but translated here into a more orchestral and (especially) choral environment.

  2. Nathan (Reply) on Saturday 25 February, 2023 at 17:04

    Thanks to facebook’s algorithms, I never even saw that you posted this review, so I’m coming by way of Edmund’s mention. But yes, thank you both for bringing this up — I’d never heard of it.