"The Visitor" took me by surprise in how quickly and unexpectedly it took shape musically in my mind. In part, I think it was because at the core it is a musical film with a drum as its heartbeat. The drum sets the pace. It creates the basis that brings Walter Vale (played by Richard Jenkins) out of his empty life. His first tentative taps on the djembe were to me like his sputtering heart waking up again. So with the beat already strong, I simply followed it to its musical conclusion. I sought to evoke Walter's transformation from a man skirting the edges of everyday life to a man part of a community fighting for its survival.
Each character also brought new elements to the score as each presented a catalyst or obstacle in Walter's redemption. Tarek was the engaging optimist; his girlfriend was the somber, fearful weight that kept them grounded. Mouna was the determined, unwavering presence that would follow Tarek anywhere. So I took these elements and blended them to create a musical awakening that followed Walter's. The progression went from classical and tragic to lively, hopeful and finally to passionate and alive.
It was really a labor of love. With such a powerful and eclectic film, I found the characters' voices already so strong that it was clear from the start how I wanted to sketch them musically. Like many others, I'm sure, I was pulled in by their story and glad to take part in bringing writer-director Tom McCarthy's vision to life.
-- Jan A.P. Kaczmarek composer