Much of the hypnotic pull of Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” belongs to the soundscape created by composer Jay Wadley, who draws from Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky to create a palpable atmosphere of menace and swirling uncertainty. In the featurette below and exclusive to IndieWire, Wadley breaks down his process, the head-exploding opportunity of working with writer/director Kaufman, and the influences that drove him to compose the 100% original ballet that caps the film.
As delirious as Jessie Buckley’s character, a woman adrift in her relationship while on a fraught road trip to meet her boyfriend’s (Jesse Plemons) parents (Toni Colette and David Thewlis), becomes, so too is the audience plunged into a fragmenting mind whose sanity is shifting like tectonic plates, a seism just around the bend. That’s in part due to the music, which hurtles between genres, culminating in the film’s biggest set piece, a ballet that distills the entire narrative into a wildly choreographed metaphor.
“It was one of those moments where my jaw just kind of hit the floor, when [producer] Anthony Bregman, who sent me an email and said, ‘Hey, can I interest you in a Charlie Kaufman movie?” Wadley said. “I feel like I almost passed out at that point in time. He wanted me to produce a couple songs from the musical “Oklahoma!,” write an original ballet, a 1950s-style jingle, and then any other film score needs that might come up.”
Wadley added, “I was thinking about how to make the score feel very familiar, but it’s been somehow brought into this person and re-interpreted to make up his own sort of alternative narrative in a way.” Wadley’s other credits include the upcoming “I Carry You with Me,” the Netflix revival of “Tales of the City,” episodes of Netflix’s “OA,” and James Schamus’ film “Indignation.”
If you’re still scratching your head by the end of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” fear not. IndieWire is here to help, with a recent interview with filmmaker Kaufman that breaks down the film’s many puzzle pieces, and a conversation with the author, Iain Reid, of the book on which the movie is based.