A journey after the expression of emotions
One of the usual ideas that are discussed when talking about “good cinema” is to say that is the one that makes us feel emotions as an audience. The one that makes us forget that what is captured on the big screen are images recorded by a camera. When the set of elements of a film merge into a whole, getting our feelings to move from the theatre seat to a place where action takes place. That “suspension of disbelief” that is so much talked about in the film books on the other side of the Atlantic. And in that sense, “Solo” by director Hugo Stuven, is a good example of this journey of sensations.
Because of usual cinematographic coincidences that happen in recent years, a number of survival and overcoming the odds stories have periodically reached our screens. All of them enjoying a more than brilliant technical side in its development. Something that, probably is one of the most outstanding elements of “Solo”. Based on a real event, and filmed in the imposing (and original) locations of Fuerteventura. Which provide a powerful visual appeal that tries to link with the intimate thoughts of a man who has to overcome adversity in order to get ahead. A character who performs a deep and profound review of his life, and everything he aspires to, if he achieves his purpose: to preserve his life. The young surfer who suffers a spectacular accident by rushing down a cliff in the most inaccessible area of the island. What promised to be an incredible sports day, ends up turning into an agonizing struggle of 48 hours to abandon a paradise transformed into hell. The broken hip and abundant bruises, are two more elements that are going to live, during that time, with another habitual companion of loneliness: the voice of his conscience.
If there is a factor, within that outstanding technical side of the film, which ends up becoming the voice of all the story elements, and the varnish that provides a layer of emotion and personality that all of them needs. The music of Sergio tilts, like the story, around the main character. And responds to two levels or planes linked intrinsically to the character: physical and emotional. On one hand, music is identified with the physical pain of the character as well as its relationship with the island’s environment. An island that seems, at almost every moment, to have a life of its own, becoming the true antagonist of our story. A kind of “body to body” fight between nature and character, which takes him to extreme physical limits where pain, agony and anguish coexist with their desire for survival. A sound texture, composed of several sound design elements that transform acoustic, organic, raw, tribal and even human sounds to achieve an aggressive sound without compassion, as the relationship between nature and our main character.
But it is the emotional plane in which music seeks to provide us, as an audience, those elements of memory and hope that complete this inner journey that transforms the protagonist. A music that accompanies his multiple mental and emotional processes that suffers during those 48 hours which, at the same time, cause him an inner change for life. The perfect situation in which music manages to go beyond what we as audience see. The survival story is considered, musically, almost as a trigger to tell the true story, the true theme of the film: the emotional transformation that the main character suffers as a result of that unfortunate accident. Here the score tries to express his inner struggle, his emotions, his reflection on mistakes made in life, his selfish attitude, his repressed feelings, his toxic relationships and a myriad of feelings that we seek to connect and empathize with. Who has not experienced, in one way or another, any of these feelings? That is why music builds a bridge between us and the inner depth of the character, so that we can feel everything we do not see.
On one hand, we feel the relationship between the protagonist and his ex-girlfriend. And music tries to express all the feelings that result from memory and from mental images he has of it. Music with a dose of warm nostalgia and muffled memories at the same time. Reflection of a mental image, sometimes clearer and sometimes more blurred, that music tries to express by fouling its development with strange sounds, like out of tune, that generate restlessness and instability. Details that encourage us to feel that there is something strange in those memories, a kind of bittersweet feeling. Details that, once we go into the film, will understand why. A music based almost exclusively on three chords using non-acoustic, unconventional, non-real sounds, in a way that expresses that instability inside the character and that cloudy memory, separated from reality, and with that sensation of discomfort and strangeness.
But like usually happen in all these stories, emotions of overcoming, a desire to live and to continue forward for the main character, must appear. A music really close to that of memories, since one provokes or detonates the other, which makes them appear, in many occasions, together. A music that explains how to accept his mistakes becomes his only way out and his true salvation. Therefore it becomes the theme that receives a higher level of development, since it is directly linked to the transformation of the main character. Melodically very simple and concise at the beginning, it is posed in an almost timid way, with a certain modesty. But as the character resolves his emotional conflicts, it develops melodically, acquiring a clear and marked emotional character towards the end of the film where this theme is structured in a very long ascent: the interior of the protagonist and his desire to survive, to save himself, to start over. Even its orchestration evolves, initially using non-acoustic, electronic and synthesizer instruments. For, later on, to be played by a string quartet that brings that human side, closer and more real, and that, combined with all the previous electronic part and sound design, manages to express those two worlds of the character: the one that was and the one that is going to be.
A dichotomy present in the very structure of the film: on one hand, an exemplary cinema of adventure and survival. On the other, an accurate reflection on how loneliness and isolating ourselves from others does not solve our problems, but rather increases them. A film that serves to talk about the helplessness and loneliness of the human being when stripped of any grip that protects them and is at the mercy of nature. Survival exercises in unthinkable conditions that may have been reached by unconsciousness, force of nature or pure bad luck. But thanks to music and emotion, they reach us from being images on the screen to capture both the physical fact and, above all, the mental strength and feelings of their little great heroes.
Fernando Fernández Jiménez