21 Sep 2020

Savage Soundtrack

From Upbeat, 9:26 am on 21 September 2020

In contrast to the anger and violence you would expect from a film about gangs, Arli Liberman’s soundtrack to Sam Kelly's new film Savage is moving and intensely sad.

Savage film banner

Savage film banner Photo: Supplied

Savage, a film inspired by true stories of New Zealand street gangs, from writer/director Sam Kelly, opened recently across New Zealand to positive reviews.

A film in three chapters, Savage takes audiences across 30 years in the life of Danny –     from his childhood in an abusive state-run boys’ institution in the 1960s to being part of an emerging urban gang in the 1970s and then as a senior member of a structured, criminal gang in the 1980s.

Composer Arli Liberman was tasked with creating the film’s soundtrack. In contrast to the anger and violence you would expect from a film about gangs Lieberman’s soundtrack to Savage is moving and intensely sad.

Liberman’s own life experience, growing up in Israel, lies behind aspects of the soundtrack.

“Sam Kelly was very vocal about trying to bring my own interpretation my own experience to this," he says. "...I had to dig very deeply and be very honest... and more and more I realised our main character is suffering from something that the majority of us are suffering from and basically it's abandonment issues."

Composer Arli Lieberman

Composer Arli Lieberman Photo: supplied

"I had to make it personal. I left home when I was a fairly young teenager, 14 or 15 and I remember very vividly not paying too much attention to that void that had been created by leaving home and not being with my mother anymore.”

Arli says “You only feel it in certain moments. Now... I can see exactly... where those deficits are and how much everything I am is a direct result of that abandonment situation that we all in the western world are suffering from. We are terrified of being by ourselves and being left alone."

Liberman, a guitarist and former session musician, composed the first stage of the soundtrack on his guitars and then the soundtrack was scored with other musicians at Roundhead Studios in Auckland.

He says the director wanted to create something unique in the music, without predictable symphonic elements, so as not to distract from Danny’s internal conflict.    

A screenshot from the Savage movie.

A screenshot from the Savage movie. Photo: Supplied

"He (Sam Kelly) didn't want any orchestral moods in there. I thought I understood... but I didn't understand till later…  because he didn't want to make it easy for the audience. He believes, and I agree, that an orchestral element has such a strong emotional tie to a particular set of emotions, whereas he wanted to put a few question marks before our audience and not distract from the very, very pinpointed emotion that he (was) trying to convey."

Within the soundtrack is a collaboration between Liberman and former Trinity Roots front man Warren Maxwell, latterly of Little Bushman. Liberman says that early on he knew he wanted to have a 'raw, male voice' as part of the soundtrack - a wish echoed by director Sam Kelly.

Sam Kelly, writer and director of 'Savage'

Sam Kelly, writer and director of 'Savage' Photo: Supplied

"I think it was Sam's idea (to use the track 'Pendulum' by Little Bushman), but then I asked Sam, 'What if we take Warren and we do our own little version?' Our amazing producer Vicky Pope made it happen and I went down to Wellington and we had the most extraordinary session where I never felt my heart aching so hard from a person that generates so much emotion and this fearless artistry of jumping in to those unfamiliar areas and he just slayed it."

The Soundtrack is available to listen to here https://smarturl.it/savageost

 

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