Appreciating the Haunting Sound of Xavier Dolan’s ‘Tom at the Farm’

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“I’m not a thriller guy—although I would love to direct one good thriller,” Xavier Dolan told me when we spoke in 2011 for the release of Heartbeats. “Everybody dreams of directing something like Se7en or Silence of the Lambs. I want to try different things and test my limits.” And now, just three years after, Dolan’s follow-up to Laurence Anyways, Tom at the Farm had its New York premiere last night at MoMA.

The prolific and frighteningly talented filmmaker’s Tom may not have a U.S. release date yet, but it more than certainly should. As a haunting and unnerving psychological thriller, the film is a departure from his affinity for grandiose aesthetics and emotionally ravaging love stories. Here he has stripped his style down to its bare bones—”minimal” in Dolan language still being a slightly heightened view of the world—to give us another taste of his talents with a bizarre, kinky, and violent tale based on a stage play by Michel-Marc Bouchard.

Tom at the Farm plays as a nightmarish journey about a mourning young man who goes to the country to the family home of his deceased lover. Upon arriving he realizes that his man’s mother knows nothing of their relationship, while his thuggish brother won’t stop at anything to keep it that way. Set in the deep, damp farmlands of Quebec, the story of psychological manipulation plays out with cunning anxiety and bizarre tangents, finding a odd and sickly sense of humor even in its brutality. And as Dolan’s movies are wont to possess, the music in the film is a menacing and wonderful character unto itself.

Last night while introducing the film Dolan mentioned that in his last appearance at MoMA he told his audience he was unsure of Tom at the Farm’s fate, fearing that it was “bad”—but that was before he began collaborating with legendary composer Gabriel Yared, whose score completely changed the film for him and, as he said, would not exist without it. So today, in honor of the film, let’s take a listen to the jarringly intense score for the film, as well some of the other music that permeates the gripping story.

GABRIEL YARED’S ORIGINAL SCORE

MICHEL LEGRAND, LES MOULINS DE MON COEUR 

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, “GOING TO TOWN”

GOTAN PROJECT, “SANTA MARIA (DEL BUEN AYRE)

COREY HART, SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT