The Rise of the Synths – Film Review

Written and directed by Iván Castell and narrated by legendary filmaker and composer John Carpenter, The Rise of the Synths tells the story of the electronic music genre, Synthwave. It traces the genre’s origins from the underground online music scene, to it’s recent rise in mainstream music.

The film uses many different techniques to tell it’s story including Synthwave musicians, sharing their musical beginnings, inspirations and the progression of their careers. The film contains narration from John Carpenter, who shares his own experiences as a filmmaker and as a composer of the soundtracks to his own films, which along with a lot of other eighties music and pop culture, are a huge influence on Synthwave.

As someone who enjoys hearing about artists talking about their creative process, I did enjoy hearing the Synthwave musicians telling their stories of how they started making music and how the Synthwave genre has become popular recently due to an interest in eighties pop culture due to films like Drive and the television series Stranger Things. The musicians are very passionate about this genre and they speak with a lot of energy while they discuss the music that they make and the genre as a whole. I would have liked it if the film had gone into more details of the origins of the synthesizer because I felt that it would have been interesting to know more information; such as when the instrument was invented and some its earliest uses in recorded music.

One of the highlights of the film was John Carpenter himself. It was interesting to hear him tell anecdotes from his experiences making films and composing the music for his soundtracks, which is especially appropriate seeing as a lot Synthwave artists have been directly influenced by his soundtracks. I was aware of his influence as a film director and knew that he composed his own music, but I was unaware of the fact that many artists for an entire music genre had taken influence from his music. So that was interesting to find out.

While the film touches on the recent interest in Synthwave music in recent years, it was a lot of fun to see how eighties pop culture has also influenced the scene, so there is a lot of references to slasher horror films, action films such as Robocop, The Terminator, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters amongst many others.

The Rise of the Synths is an informative film that will educate if you know nothing about Synthwave and will make you proud if you are a fan of the music genre. There is also plenty of fun music played throughout the film, which can make you feel like you are in a cool 80s arcade video game.

The Rise of the Synths is part of the 2020 Revelation Perth International Film Festival and is available digitally until the 19th of July.

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