Writer/director Alex Ross Perry keys into Polanski, Bergman and early Altman territory with his latest film “Queen of Earth,” starring Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston as girlfriends on edge whose lakeside retreat takes mentally unhinged turns.
And composer Keegan DeWitt, who supplied the kinky jazz score for Perry’s “Listen Up Philip,” follows his director’s lead into dark places. En route to Berlin, DeWitt hopped on the phone to talk “Queen of Earth.” Tonally, he said he tapped into Roman Polanski’s paranoid thriller “The Tenant.” “That movie is terrifying because of how methodically and persistently and slowly it unravels.” Hear the first track below.
An early awards contender for his original song in Sundance premiere “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” DeWitt stretched himself creatively on “Queen of Earth,” using “dreary, echoed-out clarinets, cool older sample pianos. There’s a 1928 Steinway in there, climbing French horns,” he said. “A lot of it is trying to make it feel like you’re taking something and playing it in reverse or that something is slowly dissolving.” DeWitt plays into the disintegrating mind of Moss’ character, a psychically unstable artist undergoing a traumatic break-up. “The stuff that she’s been able to keep together or keep some sort of composure is just slowly falling out of her fingertips.”
A fan of the eerie rhythms of Antonioni and Godard, the rising indie composer also employs a Wrenchenspiel, an instrument made of tuned metal wrenches that are hit with different mallets to produce an atonal xylophone effect.
“It’s nice to have a director like Alex,” DeWitt said, “who’s so brave and committed and not afraid how people will perceive the film. I don’t know if I would have been able to create as crazy and unbridled of a score without ‘Listen Up Philip.'”
Ryan Lattanzio is a staff writer for TOH! at Indiewire. Follow him on Twitter.