Film Despite my obvious love of film I've never really had a home cinema set up. My screen sizes have slowly grown larger over time, I've graduated from VHS to dvd to blu-ray, but never 5.1 speakers or 7.1 speakers or any of that malarky and certainly no projectors, however longingly I've looked at them in the BOSE shop at Cheshire Oaks or in Richer Sounds. Mainly cost but also space. The rooms in the flat really aren't big enough to accommodate them and we have neighbours who might not be too pleased about having a subwoofer vibrating their ceiling.
Which isn't to say I didn't try and there was a year or several when I plugged my VCR into a hi-fi for the purposes of watching the Star Wars: Special Edition when my parents were away (like said, small flat) and it was at this moment I happened to watch Electric Dreams which I'd just bought on sell through video (in a clever pack which included the soundtrack on cassette) and found myself roundly disappointed because it didn't sound as I'd expected to the point that rather like Mike Figgis during some screenings of his Timecode, I began manipulating the sound live.
The key scene is commonly known as The Duel and it's the moment when newly sentient computer, Edgar "meets" his neighbour Madeline for the first time at least in sound, though its enough for him to fall for her (and me to be honest). Having bought a vinyl of soundtrack when it was being sold off by the Central Library in town I had fixed in my imagination how I thought it would sound, with Edgar's electronic noodlings bursting from one speaker and Madeline's cello from another underscoring the distance between them physically, geographically and otherwise.
Find above an Spotify embed of the track as it appears on a compilation album though it's identical to the version on the soundtrack. Even listening through headphones, there's a palpable sense of different intelligences communicating from each of the speakers, talking to one another as they improvise around a Bach minuet. Edgar falling for her, she for Miles his "user" (in more ways that one) and the man she perceives to be her neighbour. Having imagined this exciting, pulsating piece and how it would issue out from the film, imagine my disappointment on hearing this:
It's fine but it lacks the urgency of the soundtrack version and of course it doesn't work in quite the same way because it's the job of a film's soundtrack to put the audience in the same room as the characters, especially if the music is diegetic, as it is here. Plus by intertwining the two sounds together earlier, it underscores their emotional connection. But for all of those rationalisations, I wanted to hear Madeline from one speaker, Edgar from the other.
On rewatching the film, I actually sat with the balance knob on the stereo attempting to recreate the moment manually, even attempting to play the cassette in conjunction with the image but they were out of synch. I can't explain my obsession with this other than being a teenager but it was my first realisation that film soundtracks are sometimes, indeed usually, nothing like the films from which they hail, often because a musician's allowed to present his original ideas unfiltered. In this case, arguably the pinnacle of Giorgio Moroder's career ...
... with the exception of Madeline's theme which is just ...
... spoiler warning.