dvd / album // Therapist
Therapist is Barry Adamson's
directorial debut, a 40-minute straight-to-DVD mini-movie that is
disturbingly visceral and psychologically alarming. Given Adamson's
post-Magazine penchant for soundtracks for real
and imaginary movies, his foray into making soundtracks and movies
(and soundtracks to his own movies) is one of the slightly more
logical moves in his career, much more logical than being the bass-player
in one of post-punk's best bands to composing dark, edgy movie soundtracks.
Those familiar with Adamson's take on the soundtrack
genre won't be surprised at how dark and mysterious Therapist is
and it is delivered with a polished accomplishment for a non-director;
whilst his key exposure to movie-making is as a soundtrack composer,
Adamson did attend a film course in New York one summer according
to the interview included on the DVD. In the same interview Adamson
describes making Therapist as a way of challenging himself, though
he admits freely that he didn't really know what he was doing. The
process of realising Therapist came after Adamson was about eight
tracks into a new album, at which point he began to feel like he
was treading water and that what we was plugging away at was an
Adamson-by-numbers album consisting of all his usual cues and reference
points. He then dusted off a screenplay he'd dabbled with previously
and the Therapist project was quickly fully formed.
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of noir-ish reference
points, often reasonably overt ones. There's one Monika scene which
is reminiscent of early elements of series one of David Lynch's
Twin Peaks where Audrey Horne is seen dancing provocatively
while a wonky jazz number plays in the background courtesy of Angelo
Badalamenti; except in Adamson's more sexually overt scene in Therapist
substitute 'dancing' for 'filming yourself masturbating while wearing
a creepy baby mask'. Adamson's own brand of wonky jazz plays over
the top, while on the wall of Monika's lounge hangs a poster for
Mulholland Drive, Lynch's own noir masterpiece. Elsewhere,
in a scene where the 'twins' Anna and Monika confront one another,
a poster for Ingmar Bergman's Persona hangs on the wall
of the bathroom. It rather makes me wonder if this isn't perhaps
Adamson's own house.
It isn't evident if the soundtrack to Therapist
contains the songs that Adamson started work on but considered too
derivative of his own work. Certainly the hallmarks are all there
- relaxed jazz ('Bigger Pictures', 'How Are You Feeling?', 'I Guess
That's Me... Done!'), abrasive noise ('Titles', 'Monika's Living
Nightmare' which has a particularly harrowing Nine Inch Nails-style
terror and some very unsettling remembered sounds of Monika's abuse),
electronically-framed noir funk ('How Did He Find Me?', 'Always
Will Be') and Bernard Herrmann-style, Hitchcockian strings. The
soundtrack also features 'Glove Touch' by electronica artist Rafael
Toral, which clicks and drones away beautifully, like Biosphere
remixing Alva Noto.
One of the most unsettling moments is Iza Sawicka,
the Polish musician who plays Monika, singing 'Aaa Kotki Dwa' with
fragile and finally noisy accompaniment from Adamson. Ostensibly
a gentle ballad about two kittens, almost a nursery rhyme, in the
film this song is delivered by the unsettled Monika (or is it Anna?)
from beneath a table in her kitchen, rocking backwards and forwards
and using the song to help navigate her way through her mental trauma.
As a film, Therapist is doused in themes
of fear, self-loathing, ritual abuse, and violence. There are moments
of fractured and jumpcut imagery depicting harrowing abuse recollections
from Monika. It does not make for comfortable viewing, as most things
concerned with abuse tend not to be, and even in the scenes where
Bigger Littleboy meets his therapist - to deal with his own childhood
trauma and to overcome his issues writing a script (that script
being the Monika story) - there is a deeply unsettling atmosphere
culminating in Littleboy strangling his psychotherapist.
In the interview Adamson describes the film as being
'comic book noir,' and that he wanted his movie to be filled with
'light and shadows and nothing else.' It is a faithful visual take
on the vibe of most of Adamson's musical endeavours, particularly
the Hitchcockian set-up depicted on Moss Side Murder. It
is an accomplished noir vignette, and hopefully there's more to
The DVD also includes Gemini, a film-within-a-film
which ditches all the scenes with the therapist ('the rapist'),
resequences the Monika / Anna scenes and depicts the film that Bigger
Littleboy is making and struggling with his demons to overcome and
complete. There's also a trailer, with obligatory Hollywood-style
dramatic voiceover courtesy of Adamson.
1. Main Title - Gielarek
2. A Portait Of Monika
3. Bigger Pictures
4. How Did He Find Me?
5. Monika's Living Nightmare - Barry Adamson and Antoine Lang
6. How Are You Feeling?
7. Glove Touch - Rafael Toral
8. Aaa Kotki Dwa - Iza Sawicka
9. And Always Will Be
10. A Portait Of Anna
11. Our Father?
12. I Guess That's Me... Done!
13. The Letter / End Titles