A Life in Extremes – In Dolby Atmos
Sound Project Manager: Steffi Hennig (Full IMDB Sound Team)
Composer – Anna Müller
Review by – Alex Jones
“Attention, a Life in Extremes” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 but now we have been brought the chance to witness the film in Dolby Atmos at the Dolby London headquarters on Soho Square. The film itself is a striking look at what extreme sports participants go through, for their passion and to break seemingly impossible boundaries. We meet the French freediver world champion Guillaume Néry, the Austrian extreme cyclist Herhard Gulewicz and Norweigan Base Jumper Halvor Angvik.
An extreme set of individuals that call to be accompanied by even more extreme sound design. There is a moment early on in the film where one of our heroes’ workplaces is blown up. The sheer force of the explosion can be felt through the powerful bass from the Dolby Atmos theatre. Many other moments stand out aurally to me, such as the base jumper whooshing through small gaps along mountain sides and passing through waterfalls. Dolby Atmos certainly suits this film in many ways, as a powerful soundscape showing the natural beauty and danger of our planet.
However, once you are settled into the film, the Dolby Atmos experience is less and less noticeable. There are many prominent moments, but there are equally long periods of the film that the sound doesn’t stand out as being all around you. It possibly needed to work harder to help you feel many moments that weren’t highlighted by the technological capabilities of Atmos. This is possibly because the film has already been released on DVD/Blu-Ray so it could have been been adapted for an Atmos setup rather than as a primary motive when filming and recording audio.
The entire film is an emotional journey, enhanced by incredible scenes from high up in the mountains to deep below the oceans depths. All of this incredible imagery is perfectly complimented by the music of Anna Muller. Muller is half of the Austrian electronic due known as HVOB (Her Voice over Boys). HVOB are known for minimalistic and melancholic tones and Anna embodies this, staying true to her roots when working alone.
The electronic undertones come through in particular moments in the film such as when we see the many resting places of Base Jumpers who have fallen to their deaths. The locals speak about when they fall from the cliffs onto their land and are “dead as a doornail”. It is an appropriate way of representing the mix of the horror of death with the base jumpers own freedom and beauty.
A very striking moment for me was when Néry and his wife were filmed free diving together naked. The music is very gentle and dominated by the piano notes, which are then echoed by delays until his wife is revealed to be pregnant. Electronically manipulated strings start to feature, signaling a change in the couple’s priorities and a new life as free diving parents.
It is also very noticeable when a beat is used for the monotonous battle Gulewicz faces as he attempts to travel for days on end with a few hours sleep. We watch Guleqicz lose his health rapidly and become a pedaling zombie. It is a horrific thing to witness, watching a man age what appears to be 20 years worth in a matter of days. The beat of the music falls out to drones and undistinguishable sounds until his race comes to an end. A team of crying men on a few hours sleep set against the organic piano delays and struck chords, leaves us emotionally drained with them but the synths give us hope that none of their journeys are over.
All I can say is that when I stepped back out onto Soho Square into the pouring rain, I was left dazzled and felt as if I had a new insight into extreme individuals as well as questioning certain parts of my own life, in relation to the films subject of freedom, choice and passion. I can only highly recommend you take the time to watch this film, whether you are taken by extreme sports or not, it gives an incredible picture of our modern society and the limits of humans.
Article by Alyx Jones
Edited by Sam Hughes
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