London Symphony couples 1920s silent film charm with James McWilliam’s influential music to take the viewer on a poetic and thoughtful journey through London in all its unique glory. Split into four sections, Alex Barrett’s carefully ordered film clips feature the city from 50 years ago to how it stands today. Having the whole sequence in black and white creates a seamless link between decades, blurring years yet simultaneously exhibiting the capital’s rapid and constant evolution.
The vibrancy of London is accentuated in the first movement; McWilliams’s composition is palpitating and colourful, capturing precisely the chaos and zest of the city. Barrett’s images depict the true diversity of London – from its infamous tourist attractions to its bitter poverty and injustice. The recurrent motif of the Monopoly board game being played is aptly placed between shots of opulent Kensington town houses and dilapidated council estates; a powerful economic metaphor of London’s very real board game-like nature, where few stand financially tall and many are in economic ruin.
However, in the second movement we’re suddenly transported out of the chaos and disarray and into the serene and meditative green spaces of the capital’s parks and fields. The music dramatically slows to exhibit the under-acknowledged and pastoral side to the city. Scenes of Richmond’s humble deer and cherished barn swallows open us up to an entrancing fairy tale, where even pesky pigeons seem endearing through Barrett’s scintillating camerawork.
Movement three and another transition occurs: we move from ethereal forests to the enchanting and enriching temples and cathedrals of London’s incredibly diverse religious spaces. From the dramatic curvature of Gurdwaras to the dazzling intricacies of Hindu temples, there are times when the director’s images appear more like the views from deep rural south-east Asia instead of urban south-east London.
Barrett’s film is beautifully shot and McWilliam’s music is seamless in this artful capturing of the capital. The weaving together of patches of footage is powerful in its ability to depict a city of contrasts, diversity and movement, while the continuous and boundless symphony provides a fitting backdrop to a city that never stops evolving or moving.
London Symphony is released nationwide on 3rd September 2017.
Watch the trailer for London Symphony here: