Documentary Evidence

Barry Adamson


Barry Adamson 'Therapist' DVD+CD artwork

dvd / album // Therapist

central control international | dvd + cd cci015 | 16/05/2011 | track listing

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 come.

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.

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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

(c) 2011 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence