I went to see Joe Wright’s The Soloist mainly because it was based on the book by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez; I haven’t read the book, but I do recall reading his initial column about Nathaniel Ayers, the homeless cellist which the film is about. (Lopez’s columns were one of the things I missed most after I left Los Angeles in late 2003.) Though I think the film suffers from a sometimes rather self-conscious technique, in the end it has more pluses than minuses; and one of the surprising and unexpected pluses is an abstract sequence depicting Ayers’ synesthesia when he listens (pictured above) to the opening movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. Here are three images from the sequence:
The sequence was the work of Double Negative, the London-based special effects house which also worked on Wright’s Atonement. Although the film’s credits give Andy Hague sole credit, Double Negative’s website notes:
[Steve Wright] was inspired by the abstract films of the 1970’s, in particular the work of Stan Brakhage and Len Lye when it came to the Synesthesia sequence, where musical genius, Ayers, visualises music as colour.
Double Negative’s VFX Supervisor, John Moffatt, supported by VFX Producer, Emma Larsson and Executive Producer, Melissa Taylor, conceptualised a simple [approach] using coloured lights, crystals and glass. Elements were shot in a dark tent on a parking lot and Moffatt worked closely with VFX film editor Andy Hague, to create a sequence that seemed to be moving and changing colour with the music.