Armand Amar and the Human music

Armand Amar’s magnificent film music to the masterpiece Human (2015) by Jan Arthus-Bertrand

Author: Sylvia Borissova

Arman Amar on the idea behind the soundtrack of Human (2015)

When film director, journalist, photographer and environmentalist Jan Arthus-Bertrand was at the beginning of his spectacular project, the film masterpiece Human (2015), he imagined the film “quiet”. His idea was not to add any identifier to the cultural and ethnic affiliations of the people interviewed, other than their faces and voices and their native languages, professing in answer to forty questions, the same for all, what we all share—the consubstantial.

The original full-length film lasts 3 hours and 11 minutes, but there are ten more versions—all different angles to this consubstantial: life and death, war and peace, inequality, love, family, education and the future of the world.

One of these versions is the musical one—on its turn, however, it is “quiet” in terms of speaking. The idea of ​​the original film is not to refer to any specific identity, nor to names, ages, nationalities or religions—unless the respondents themselves point them out. Thus, Arthus-Bertrand deliberately “sharpens” the viewer’s senses and his active attention and empathy: when we don’t have known points of reference to catch in someone’s story, we activate our natural psychological mechanisms to create such. When we are only confronted by the expressive person who shares his or her personal truths about what is meaningful and significant in life, we have no choice but to listen carefully and discover the bridges between ourselves and the other. To hear that personal truths, clothed in the most varied words and languages, are so similar.

And while the three-hour version focuses our attention mainly on the polyphony of personal truths—the last deep, rich and diverse personal truth of Human, in the musical version the director has found another interesting solution: against the background of the melody, individual for each episode of the film, only people’s faces “speak”. Through the look, the smile, the tears and the facial expressions of pain, sadness, anger, happiness, immeasurable love…

In the Human music (*the full musical version of the film—in the link below), the French film composer Armand Amar has tried to recreate and enliven the melody of the emotions gushing in the course of the interviews, masterfully letting it fly beyond any particular cultural or ethnic entanglement. The opus to the episode Mongolia (**from 21:25 in the film) is a particularly striking example, using musical instruments and techniques from the folklore traditions of different peoples: the melody begins with a Jew’s harp, resembling in density that throat singing typical of the local population, continues with piano and violin to the rhythm of the horse gallop, calms down along with the picturesque landscapes of pastoral life and ends with hulusi and female chanting beyond any existing language.

Amar himself shared in a short ‘behind-the-scenes’ film that even when he first started composing music for Human, he thought:

It would be great to create an opera in which the libretto is performed by the people telling the story, and the aerial views give space to the instrumental music.

You can check for yourself if he succeeded. Enjoy watching and listening!


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