Thomas in the studio
Thomas in the studio

The arts are not to be approached with safety in mind. It’s obvious that director and writer Panos Cosmatos is taking a big swing with his latest film Mandy. Look no further than the central cast which includes Oscar Award Winner Nicolas Cage as Red Miller,

Andrea Riseborogh of the multiple Oscar Winning Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and BAFTA Nominated The Death of Stalin as Mandy Bloom, and 

Linus Roache as Jeremiah Sand (of Christopher Nolan’s Oscar Nominated Batman Begins, Primetime Award Winning TV Series Homeland, Primetime Award Nominated TV Series Vikings). To complement this acting lineup, Cosmatos enlisted famed two time Oscar nominee (The Theory of Everything, Sicario) and three time BAFTA Nominated (The Theory of Everything, Sicario, Arrival) composer Jóhann Jóhannsson to manifest a score equally eclectic and disturbing.

German composer, Thomas Eggensberger, worked as part of Jóhannsson’s team in delivering the powerful musical identity to this film which combines love, lust, and revenge in a psychedelic package that often eludes definition. One of the last films of his illustrious career (the composer passed away in 2018) Jóhann’s score for Mandy is that thing which is far too rarely seen, an artistic creation with its own signature. Those fortunate enough to have seen Mandy find themselves searching for clues about its components; an aspect which Mr. Eggensberger provides to us regarding the musical component of this film.

The DNA of Mandy is found in the bible, Shakespeare, and cinematic history; Love, lust, envy, evil, and revenge. What the artists who collaborated to create Mandy prove is that the way a story is being told is what makes it extraordinary. Red [Cage] and Mandy [Riseborogh] live an odd but loving existence together in the mountains during the 1980s, that is until cult leader Linus [Sand] falls for the beautiful woman in a random drive-by encounter.

The film evolves from one-sided desire into demon bikers and an axe wielding Red with substantial moments of violence throughout. The score enlists everything from fear prompting strings to synth textures and sounds which reference the 1980s setting of the story. In the most benevolent of manners, the music and the action of the film are unhinged, leaving the audience uncertain of the direction and evolution each will pursue.

What is unquestionably visible in Mandy is that Cosmatos, Cage, and Jóhannsson have each established a masterwork in this production. A longtime fan of Jóhann’s film scores, Eggensberger proclaims, “I knew this was going to be a life-changing opportunity. Learning from the best, working on the best project with the best team.” At Jóhannsson’s studio in Berlin, Germany, Thomas performed a host of tasks from data management to exporting audio to be sent to the music editor and mixer, and providing instruments (synthesizers) to the studio to be recorded for the soundtrack for Mandy.

As a source of contact between director Panos Cosmatos and Jóhann, Eggensberger was a witness to the evolution of Mandy’s remarkable musical personality. Most crucially, Thomas was tasked with creating the “master sessions” which contain the entire film with every single audio element within it. These “master sessions” give the most current version of the film with all elements present to allow the production team to assess and progress the film towards its final form.

Confirming that the project demanded substantial work days, Thomas notes, “The team often spent countless hours during the day and into the night editing music, organizing, communicating with production team, and other maintenance jobs that had to be completed. Working long hours is a very common occurrence in this industry. In most other industries people would probably say ‘There is no way all of this work got done in one day’ … or ‘in such small period of time.’. I often still have this experience now when the work demands tasks to be completed quickly efficiently and to a high standard.”

The results achieved certainly indicate that this goal for Mandy was attained. These include: the AFCA Award for Best Score, SFCS Award for Best Original Score, World Soundtrack Award for Film Composer of the Year, CinEuphoria Award for Best Original Music (as well as Top Ten of the Year, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film), Chainsaw Award for Best Score (in addition to Best Director and Best Limited Release Film), Fright Meter Award for Best Editing, Saturn Award for Best Independent Film, and winner of Secció Oficial Fantàstic at the Catalonian International Film Festival.

For his own part, Thomas Eggensberger is immensely proud to have been such a vital part of the musical team whose contributions to Mandy were so recognized by the industry. It’s proof positive that taking a “big swing” can result in big rewards.

Writer: Arlen Gann

By Punit