Home > Reviews > ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW – Abel Korzeniowski

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW – Abel Korzeniowski

escapefromtomorrowOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Unless you attended the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, it’s likely that you don’t know much about Escape from Tomorrow. It’s a low-budget independent drama/fantasy/horror from director Randy Moore about a man (Roy Abramsohn) who starts to gradually lose his grip on sanity and reality during a family trip to a theme park. What’s so interesting about the film is that it was shot entirely on-location at Walt Disney World in Florida, without the permission or knowledge of the Disney corporation, meaning that Moore and his crew had to resort to guerilla-style filmmaking techniques in order to get the film made. Moore even sent his film to be edited in South Korea so that Disney execs would not find out about the film and shut it down for trademark infringements before it was ever seen in public. Apparently, the film has some less-than complementary things about the Magic Kingdom and its anthropomorphic rodents, and despite its success and popularity with audiences at Sundance, it’s unclear whether the film will ever receive a conventional theatrical release.

One thing that has been incredibly well-received, however, is the film’s score, by the young Los Angeles-based Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski. Despite being a two-time Golden Globe nominee (for A Single Man and W.E.), Korzeniowski has yet to crack the mainstream Hollywood film score world, and unfortunately the low-budget independent nature of Escape from Tomorrow is unlikely to change this just yet. However, don’t let that dissuade you; Korzeniowski’s music is large, fully orchestral, and quite brilliant. One of the things I love about Korzeniowski’s music – and this is absolutely intended to be a compliment – is how unashamedly old-school it is. He’s a themes, variations and soaring melodies sort of composer that you don’t get very often these days, cut from the mould of composers like John Barry and Georges Delerue, but who isn’t afraid to augment his style and classicism with contemporary compositional techniques and subtle electronic enhancements when the film requires it. Escape from Tomorrow is a score which embraces all these styles, in a tremendously enjoyable fashion.

The album for Escape from Tomorrow runs for just 22 minutes, but in that time Korzeniowski manages to create a gorgeous, idyllic-sounding musical depiction of Uncle Walt’s creation, unashamedly building on all those the great 1950s melodrama scores, full of soaring themes and tragedy-laden pathos. Of course, in the film, Korzeniowski’s music intentionally plays in ironic juxtaposition to the surrealism of the film and the gradually encroaching madness of the film’s lead character, underscoring his increasingly unnerving mouse-inflected psychoses with stunningly beautiful music than only makes the sense of cognitive disassociation seem more visceral. But that doesn’t make the music any less wonderful on CD.

The score is built around two main themes; the first, as heard in the opening “Gates of Tomorrow” is noble and optimistic, augmented by magical harp glissandi, soft cymbal rings and woodwind accents that gives the whole thing a sense of tender innocence. The second, which makes its debut in “Magic Kingdom, Part 1” and continues on into “Magic Kingdom, Part 2”, is a dreamy, nostalgic exploration for high strings that has intentional echoes of the classically lush Disney music composers like Leigh Harline and Oliver Wallace wrote for their animated features back in the 1940s and 50s. Both themes are stunningly beautiful.

“Fantasy Girl” has a distinct John Barry sound to it, especially in the use of prominent snare drums in the percussion section and in deliberate pacing of the cue, especially as it grows into its more martial finale. The score’s main action cue, “Fireworks”, has the same flamboyant rhythmic ostinatos that graced the most energetic parts of Korzeniowski’s score for Copernicus Star in 2009, and the brutish low-end brass clusters, swirling string writing, and subliminal anvil hits are magnificent. The addition of a piercing children’s choir in the cue’s second half just enhances the music’s power even more. At the other side of the coin, both “Mystery Man” and “Lost in Caves” embrace a darker, more menacing electronic tone, pitting jarring, mysterious-sounding synth textures against skittery string stingers, glockenspiel chords, and an incongruously jazzy brushed snare beat, providing a clear indication that things are not quite right down at the mouse house.

Everything comes to a head in the conclusive “The Grand Finale”, three and a half minutes of film music romance and melodrama that wrings every ounce of emotion from the orchestra. Rolling classical pianos, high-register strings, heroic brass accents, and sweeping cymbal clashes highlight this tremendous piece of music, one of the best all-out celebrations of this unashamedly emotional style I have heard since Philippe Rombi channeled the great Frank Skinner in his score for Angel in 2007.

A bonus cue at the end, “Imaginate”, is a pastiche of those love-them-or-loathe-them Sherman Brothers songs that permeate the senses as one wanders around Disneyland – think “It’s a Small World” or “In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” – and, unfortunately, is likely to annoy many listeners, despite its authenticity and cleverness.

Despite this one song, and despite the brevity of the score’s running time, I unhesitatingly recommend Escape from Tomorrow as yet another example of the stunning talents of Abel Korzeniowski. It still amazes me that the only people who recognize what he has to offer are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the International Film Music Critics Association; studio music supervisors and mainstream directors need to discover him, soon, and take advantage of the talent he has on bigger pictures. As I said earlier, Escape from Tomorrow  score is unlikely to garner any mainstream attention for Korzeniowski, but for film music collectors it’s a real treat, and an early contender for Best Score of 2013.

Rating: ****½

Buy the Escape from Tomorrow soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Gates of Tomorrow (2:14)
  • Fantasy Girl (2:01)
  • Fireworks (2:46)
  • Magic Kingdom, Part 1 (2:00)
  • Mystery Man (2:08)
  • Lost in Caves (2:17)
  • Magic Kingdom, Part 2 (3:05)
  • The Grand Finale (3:20)
  • Imaginate (2:05)

Running Time: 22 minutes 01 seconds

Sugar Free Music (2013)

Music composed and conducted by Abel Korzeniowski. Orchestrated by Abel Korzeniowski . Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki. Album produced by Abel Korzeniowski.

  1. April 10, 2013 at 1:52 am

    22 minutes?! wow…that’s short! Do you think the fact that his style is so “old school” is what will keep him out of mainstream hollywood? Or do you think it’s just the fact that he hasn’t quite been noticed yet? Since mainstream hollywood tends to be moving more and more away from themes and melodies, perhaps there just isn’t a chance for up-and-coming old schoolers?

  2. April 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I think it’s a combination – Korzeniowski is still very much a new kid on the block time-wise, and there’s plenty of time for him to be discovered, but too many directors and producers (in my opinion) are scared of melody and emotion in the film scores for fear of sounding manipulative or whatever other negative comment they can make. I disagree – I’ve said before that the emotional manipulation is part of the reason I love cinema and music so much. I WANT to feel these emotions in the context of a film or a film score. I’m in the minority when it comes to the general populace, I think, but hopefully this will change in time.

  1. April 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm
  2. April 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm

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