Rutger Zuydervelt has recently self-released his score to the Dutch/Belgian/Italian coproduction of Porselein (Porcelain), a psychological drama by Jenneke Boeijink. It also features an extra 12 tracks which, although not making the final cut, were still instrumental to the score’s overall composition.
“The lives of Anna, Paul and their young son Thomas look perfect – from the outside. Paul has a well-paid, demanding career, Anna has a studio at home where she works with porcelain and Thomas is an angelic child. They have money, friends, and each other. But when Thomas bites one of his friends at school, the first cracks appear in the glossy exterior of this ‘perfect’ life. It marks the start of a long, frustrating search for the cause of their son’s aggression: a process that mercilessly exposes the frailties they each carefully hide.”
There isn’t such a thing as a ‘perfect life’, and the score reflects this. Nothing is as it seems, at least when viewed from the outside. This is a normal family, living in Rotterdam, but their everyday lives conceal a multitude of cracks. Nothing is perfect, and the score is an immediately tense one, reminding the listener that stability and control are illusions, possibly designed by the self for comfort and reassurance in a Universe where chaos and order collide and coexist. Happiness and wellbeing – a stable life – is easily breakable. One is never in complete control, and the cracks soon begin to shudder through the music and through the film.
With contributions over multiple tracks from renowned cellist Francesco Guerri (Carla Bozulich, Jessica Moss), the music alternates between violent interludes and tender moments. Working through the emotions, and going through them to get to the other side (the only way through), the parents never give up on their son, and neither does the music. It has to push through, and it has to confront the uneasy questions to get to the true, and sometimes painful, answers. But the music, like the process, is restorative. The parents care – and this is reflected in the intimate and heart-wrenching pull of the cello’s strings, as if holding their son closer and tighter to their chests, never letting them go.
A loss of innocence taints the score, which is reflected in Thomas and his act of aggression, but there’s also uncertainty and confusion and pain. There’s a sense that one can never go back, and that’s bittersweet. The angelic choir that ghosts in and out on ‘Last Goodbye’ has a childlike, peaceful innocence, but it’s tinged with sadness and finality. This is a masterful soundtrack, and it shows a great maturity from a prolific artist. One might expect this, but it’s still a striking score. Zuydervelt has been around the block for a while, but this score elevates his musicianship to that of an adept composer and not just an artist.
Life is fragile, like porcelain. Hold it in your hands, and be careful with it; make sure it doesn’t break or crack. Porselein will be screened in Dutch cinemas from March 12.