The silent sixes, the shadows –
Wings, huge and rotting things –
Big black raven things that –
That weigh me down, heavy and burnt –
That stop me standing –
That stop me –
Stop me –
– a shot.
Blackest Ever Black presents the first vinyl edition of Dickon Hinchliffe’s original score for 1980 – the second part of Channel 4 and Revolution Films’ Red Riding trilogy, adapted by Tony Grisoni from David Peace’s quartet of novels and first screened in 2009.
Each film in the Red Riding trilogy, a landmark achievement in British television history, was helmed by a different director and had its own distinctive look, sound and feel. While Julian Jarrold’s 1977 and Anand Tucker’s 1983 were both marvellous, well-rounded pictures, James Marsh’s 1980 – photographed by Igor Martinovic on 35mm – somehow seemed to penetrate deeper, hit harder, and linger longer and more vividly in the memory.
Described by Tony Grisoni as “an elegant steely trap”, 1980‘s tragic arc is all the more devastating for the glimpses of lightness and redemption with which it taunts its hero – policeman Peter Hunter, played with astonishing grace and nuance by Paddy Considine. Warren Clarke, Maxine Peake, Peter Mullan, Tony Pitts, Jim Carter, David Morrissey, Sean Harris, Shaun Dooley and Lesley Sharp also figure in what surely ranks as one of the finest British ensemble casts ever assembled.
So yes, the acting, writing and direction are all first-rate, but crucial to the mesmeric, elegiac and ultimately pincering, punishing effect of 1980 is its music, composed by Dickon Hinchliffe and performed by a small string ensemble augmented with bass, piano, guitar and percussion. A founder member of Tindersticks, Hinchliffe has played a major role in the band’s scores for the films of Claire Denis (including Vendredi Soir, Trouble Every Day and Nénette Et Boni), and since flying the roost has established himself as an arthouse and Hollywood composer of considerable renown, with credits including Forty Shades Of Blue, Project Nim, Winter’s Bone and Rampart.
Even more eloquently than Paddy Considine’s note-perfect performance, Hinchliffe’s music for 1980 articulates Hunter’s journey from righteousness to ruin, his optimism gradually consumed by dread and paranoia. Even at its most tender, its most hopeful, its most soaringly romantic, the stench of death is all over it.
CHASING AND FIGHTING SHADOWS
Choosing Dickon Hinchliffe to score the film was a very easy choice. I knew Dickon’s music through his work with the band Tindersticks and I soon learnt that he had worked with the brilliant, sensual French director Claire Denis whose films I adore, not least because her musical choices are so exquisite and precise.
On 1980 I didn’t want a score that was slaved to the era of the film nor did I want Dickon to illustrate or underscore the film – I wanted him to respond to it and if necessary have a fight with it. And that is exactly what he did. The first piece he sketched out is the Ripper theme that opens the film (‘The Ripper’). It immediately throws you off – the music is uncomfortable, sinister and it builds to a devastating climax. It’s evil music but it is not ugly – far from it, it’s malignantly beautiful.
The Yorkshire Ripper and our Ripper theme lurk throughout the film though often in disguise. The other major themes in the score are based around the character of Peter Hunter and his quest to find out the truth. In 1980, the truth does not set the character free – in fact, the more he finds out, the worse his fate becomes. There’s a lightness and purposefulness to Hunter’s quest at the begin inning of the film that the score literally drives forward. But Hunter is chasing and fighting shadows and the score does likewise – becoming creepy and even dissonant with increasing use of percussion.
At the climax of the film (‘Five Men, Five Guns’), Dickon cleverly amalgamates and re-imagines all the major musical themes into one sustained piece of dramatic scoring that encompasses a complex spectrum of emotions, ending on a note of yearning sadness. Listening to the score now, away from the film, is for me an enormous pleasure. It gets into your head and stays there.
– James Marsh (director of 1980), March 2009
LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF DAVID PEACE
Appropriately, Channel 4’s production of David Peace’s Red Riding novels felt like something out of time – a throwback to the early days of the broadcaster’s history.
Red Riding was an anomaly amongst the new Channel 4’s property shows, cheap controversy-mongering and reality TV. Since there were only enough funds available to adapt three of the four novels – 1977 was the one which didn’t make it onto the screen – 1980 became the centrepiece of a trilogy. Here we had a vision of what British television could (still) be like. Director James Marsh and screenwriter Tony Grisoni constructed a film that was expressionistic, fractured, mythic. Marsh drew the best of an excellent cast, led by Paddy Considine, perhaps the most gifted British actor of his generation. Somehow, Marsh and Grisoni broke free, not only from the conventions of current British television, but also from the mediocrity that reigns in recent British cinema (a mediocrity which, sadly, was demonstrated all too acutely in Tom Hooper and Peter Morgan’s dreadful adaptation of Peace’s The Damned Utd).
Four years on from the Red Riding adaptations, and Peace’s work has come to seem even more prophetic than it did even in 2009. How is it that writing about the past could tell us something about the future? And yet, how many times, in the last few years, have we found ourselves saying it’s like something out of David Peace? In England, in the second decade of the 21st century, it’s as if some kind of spell is wearing off. The conjuring, the concealment, could only work for so long, and there is a growing feeling that the past is coming back, that what had been buried will no longer remain underground. All the occult deals, the secret meetings, all the silencing and the disappearances, all of them gradually coming to light. Everything that was necessary to build the reality system we have lived in for the last thirty years is now being exposed. The same unholy triangle – police, politicians, journalists – keeps returning, scandal after scandal: Hillsborough, hackgate, Savile. Dark networks of complicity, everyone compromised (and therefore compliant). It all connects…Pull on one thread and it all starts to unravel…
It’s like Peace woke up before the rest of us, laying out, in the novels he wrote between 1999-2002 a vision of British society that would be vindicated by the revelations of the last few years. The central character in the Red Riding novels has also had a returning role in some of this decade’s scandals: Yorkshire, which in Peace’s hands becomes the dark secret heart of England, a rival source of power to London, a cursed territory. The tendrils that connected Hillsborough to Savile pass through (or under) Yorkshire. Flash to a now notorious photograph of Jimmy Saville with Peter Sutcliffe and Frank Bruno…A light entertainer, a serial killer, a boxer…Like something out of David Peace…Then there’s the revelation that police investigating the Yorkshire Ripper murders considered Savile a suspect for a while…and one of the Ripper’s victims was found only yards from Savile’s flat…
By 1980, Peace’s fictional(ised) world was increasingly incorporating actual events, as the Red Riding story arc started to centre on to the bungled police investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper. With 1977, Peace had begun to move out of James Ellroy’s shadow. 1974 felt like a fairly simple translation exercise, in which Ellroy’s infernal vision of LA corruption was transposed to Yorkshire. Already, though, it was clear that the two writers had a very different orientation to what they were depicting. Ellroy is a pugnacious pessimist, rubbing our noses in the excrement of the world and calling us sentimentalists for expecting any more. There is no such acceptance of corruption in Peace’s work, which howls with an unexpiated sense of outrage at injustice and corruption. Peace’s is a Gnostic vision: even if the material world is dark and heavy with a corruption that is constitutive and indelible, even if there is no possibility of escape or redemption, on no account should we accept it.
Some of the moments in the Red Riding novels that most felt like melodramatic excesses – children kept prisoner in bizarre underground lairs, for instance – turned out to also to be prophetic. It seems that melodramatic ‘excess’ is built into the Real. Realism screens out this excess by reflecting the world according to common sense, and in this way abets power (this can’t be happening). Actual conspiracies are easily waved away by being dismissed as conspiracy theories. Yet, after hackgate, after Hillsborough, after Savile, it’s clear that conspiracy theories have a much better grasp on how things operate than level-headed Anglo-Saxon common sense.
Drawn into the murk of institutional cover-up, Peter Hunter in 1980 has no hope of exposing the conspiracy. (The conspiracy can only be revealed many years later, when the key players are retired or dead.) Hunter is led down blind alleys; he faces lack of co-operation, outright obstruction and deadly betrayal. Most ominously, he sees, necessarily too late, the way in which corrupt power responds when it is threatened. Cops, hacks and politicians all have the goods on each other. Ruling class consciousness: it is either watch each other’s back or be stabbed in the back. There’s no need to fear do-gooders like Peter Hunter. No one is pure; there is always something – a photograph, an indiscretion, a remark – that you would rather keep under wraps. They have something on everyone, and, when the time is right, they will let you see what they’ve got on you.
– Mark Fisher, July 2013