We hold a special place in our hearts for the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
We were honoured to have a long-standing working relationship with the exceptional Icelandic composer, ever since he scored our film ‘Varmints’, for which he won first prize for Best Original Score at the Rhode Island film festival. So we were delighted when Jóhann asked us to create a film for ‘A Song for Europa’: one of the beautiful tracks from his release ‘Orphee’ on Deutsche Grammophon.
As was typical for Johann, the work is a beautifully atmospheric composition, one that immerses the listener into the strange recordings of the ‘Numbers Stations’: a category of shortwave radio station broadcasts characterized by readings of number lists, letters, and coded messages from a forgotten era.
Johann’s main inspiration came from Jean Cocteau’s film ‘Orphee’, which shows the main character, played by Jean Marais, listening intently on his car radio to cryptic, repetitive sequences of words and phrases, interrupted by short wave bursts of static and noise. These scenes were in turn inspired by Cocteau’s experiences of the BBC’s broadcasts of coded messages during the second world war. These cryptic broadcasts were direct antecedents of the ‘Numbers Stations’, which were most prevalent during the Cold War and provided Johann with a connection to the album’s overarching theme of Orpheus and that myth’s themes of thresholds and crossing borders. The lonely girl’s voice reciting seemingly random numbers became the voice of Euridyce, a voice from beyond, from elsewhere.
Director Gergely Wootsch has created a considered and thoughtful animated film to respond to the music, which crosses literal boundaries and thresholds as it drifts along a desolate cold war landscape, following a haunting voice as it searches for a listener.