Soundtrack: Krzysztof Komeda / Cul De Sac

There are four film composers who stand high above all others in musical brilliance, command of the craft of scoring for action, and originality. They are Krzysztof Komeda, Toru Takemitsu, Ennio Morricone, and Bernard Herrmann. And I think Krzysztof Komeda may be the favorite of my favorites. 

Polanski Col De Sac Poster - Jan Lenica

Like most of the films he scored (particularly those of Polanski) his music is characterized by daft melodies and off-kilter rhythms always subverted by an undercurrent of dread. It’s with Komeda that you see the potential a film score has in evoking unexpected unease in the viewer. A great many composers write music for suspense/horror films with music that will beat you over the head with sledgehammer dissonances and shrieking fortissimo climax cues. Komeda, on the other hand, lures you into his haunted house with daft, seemingly harmless melodies, and just when you think you’re safe the floor drops out beneath you. 

The soundtrack for Roman Polanski’s Cul-De-Sac might be his very best. It’s a brief score, but its inclusion in the film is integral to making the film the one-of-a-kind film experience that it is. And apart from the film it’s still a thoroughly innovative and unforgettable suite of music. 

In this score I’m loving how midway through Pushing the Car (around :45) the electric bass swaps roles with those of sax/piano, with the bass taking over the halting melody.

In the film, the jazz samba selections Radio One and Radio Two are deceptively ironic, mocking the dystopian reality that the husband and wife find themselves trapped in.

And in Dicky’s Death Komeda somehow manages to take an abstract horn trumpet/trombone intro commenting on a character’s perverse and painful death and turn it into jazz improv. 

Finally, the title track reprises themes from other cues, but this time with the main melody played on a clavioline to create a strange, nerve-jangling mood. The sound it not unlike a large gnat trapped inside your ear canal on an oppressively hot night. But like a lot of Komeda’s music it manages to be at once jarring but still serenely affecting. 

Though he composed music for dozens of shorts and documentaries, sadly Komeda only composed a relative handful of feature-length films before he died in a freak accident in 1968, tragically passing on at the peak of his talents. 

When a soundtrack recording makes you want to see the film again for the 4th time – I call it excellent.