London Symphony started off as a Kickstarter project in 2014, and after a successful campaign, has now finally come to fruition. The idea is simple: it’s a city symphony consisting of four movements that aim to capture the current atmosphere of London. Montages of black and white images are accompanied with an original score that has been meticulously designed to suit the visuals.
It feels like a direct descendant of Man with a Movie Camera (the poster has a striking resemblance) and the Qatsi Trilogy alike, relying on the visual power of cinema over narrative or storytelling. However, it doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Despite having four outlined movements, there doesn’t seem to be a clear distinction between each quarter. Footage from any of the segments could easily be placed in a different area without much disruption, as the movements feel more like a gimmick than a structural decision.
Despite this, the film does manage to provide stunning angles of London in abundance, which do massively outweigh some of the more ordinary shots that, without a forgiving black and white filter, would feel substandard. The portrayal of the old vs. new dynamic of the city is where the film feels most sure-footed. Glorious shots of modern high-rise buildings cutting through the sky are contrasted with the London of days gone by. Several frames cleverly show landmarks encapsulating London’s heritage being towered over by cranes, or reflected in the windows of overpowering skyscrapers.
The portrayal of London, if not ground-breaking in its message, is incredibly thorough. It depicts what makes the city tick (R.I.P Big Ben) in a beautiful exploration of both the inner and outer parts of the city, from the bustling multi-cultural food markets to the tranquil suburbs. There does seem to be a mild critique of the city, the litter-conscious bin montage for example, but this is ultimately a celebration of what makes London, London.
The music breathes life into the film and turns images of mundanity into something cinematic, construction cranes look as if they are dancing due to the joyous symphony that reigns throughout. The music is a jolly, fast-paced opus that rarely delves into anything more sinister which can at times be tedious, but mostly allows for director Alex Barrett and his team’s love of London to burst onto the screen.
This film is not the complete article, but given its humble beginnings, it is certainly some achievement. Although the images and music aren’t saying much, what they are saying is that London is one hell of a city and we should embrace it for its multi-cultured and exciting way of life – an important reminder in a time of doom and gloom.
London Symphony is released on September 3rd.