Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds
In 1985, a bunch of enthusiastic young filmmakers headed off to the Australian outback to create a tale about a crippled inventor, his religiously-addled sister, their encounter with a stranger from the desert and their quest to build a 'flying machine'. Like the strange trio's construction of the flying machine itself, the film was an ambitious and eccentric project, but determination and commitment saw Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds completed in 1987, and released in 1988. It had some minimal cinema exposure and some good critical response at film festivals. These days, the film has all but disappeared into history. Some people maintain fond remembrances of it, and, from time to time it surfaces in some strange pocket of cult affection or another. It has a meagre 3 reviews on IMDB, but each of them rates 10 stars, which says something about the loyalty of its fans.
The music from the film went on to have a life of its own. Rolling Stone was outspoken enough to call the soundtrack 'an album of stunning instrumental beauty and exquisite soundscapes' and award it an impressive 4 stars out of 5. The CD, released only in Australia and Japan, sold out its only issue. A video single, 'Spirits Song' still plays on late night music shows, and can even be found now on YouTube.
Spirits was nominated for two Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards in 1988 for Production Design (Sean Callinan and Peter Miller) and for Costume Design ( Mathu Anderson and Angela Tonks). The following year, the soundtrack CD was nominated for an Australian Recording Industry Award (ARIA). In 1990 the film won the Special Prize at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival.
I created the soundtrack of Spirits from samples of all kinds of recordings I made on the location: wind blowing across bottles, some Aeolian wind harps that we built specially for the show, droning tones in empty water tanks, squeaks and creaks and groans. I still enjoy its strange blend of atmospherics and quasi-orchestral grandeur.
The music recording of Spirits has the distinction of being the first fully digitally mastered Australian movie soundtrack.
Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds was a Meaningful Eye Contact Film, directed by Alex Proyas and produced by Andrew McPhail. Music and sound design were by Peter Miller and the film was edited by Craig Wood. Cinematography was by David Knaus and Jamie Thompson, production design was by Sean Callinan and Peter Miller. The film featured Michael Lake as Felix, Rhys Davies as Betty and Norman Boyd as Smith. It was shot on location in Broken Hill, Australia and at Supreme Studios in Sydney. Full cast & crew on IMDB.
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