Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score to The Staggering Girl – Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to Suspiria – is out now on Milan Records. The short film stars Julianne Moore and Sakamoto’s score is a haunting one. Dense textures and off-colour piano melodies bring Aphex Twin’s classic Selected Ambient Works II back from the grave, and gaseous hisses combine with spectral whispers to cut off escape routes, surrounding the music and then gripping it.
The interspersed piano notes act as stepping stones. Minimal and yet doing just enough to stay afloat, they bob up upon the music’s surface. A bedrock of static lies underneath. The notes change ever so slightly, preparing for a different scene, wearing a different outfit, delivering different lines, even while keeping the same actress on set, and this creates a melodic continuity. The soundtrack rewards close listening. A blurred synth progression lingers in the background, creating an air of mystery, and undercurrents of light static bring about a shivering unease.
Quietly invasive strings stutter back and forth, recalling the work of Hitchcock. A black-and-white mood drapes itself over the strings, growing in suspicion and gradually increasing in tension. The score is a tense one, and there’s a sense of colliding with something shocking and unavoidable, no matter the direction, like Daphne DuMaurier’s Don’t Look Now.
The misty atmosphere and the slow, cold synths summon up feelings of dread and paranoia. This is made all the more impressive given the short length of the film. Sakamoto didn’t have the luxury of a longer running-time, and the score has constricted, too, giving it a tighter, more cohesive feel, and being all the better for it. Sakamoto’s skill shows through, because The Staggering Girl feels like a completed work.