Man’s obsessions with meaning is found in his beliefs and realizations that patterns exist in many things…stars, series of events, teas leaves…numbers. Numerology is an age-old belief system. The Mayans had their calendars that, interestingly, show an end to an age in 2012 (go ahead and Google that, but beware…it’s a rabbit hole that is deep). The number 23 is referred to as The 23 Enigma because of its associative patterns that extend beyond normality. That makes it an intriguing concept that leads, as does the Mayan 2012, or 12/21/12, calendar end date, to strange and seemingly meaningful events that are interrelated.
Joel Schumacher has directed a film that explores that obsession (with the number 23) in a consuming, often dark paranoia that threatens to unravel the life of the character, played by Jim Carrey, in one of his few unfunny roles. He acquires a novel that broaches the subject of 23 and takes it through many twisty pathways. Eventually, he feels that he and the novel’s character are one and the same, with fates intertwined. Being wrapped up in the obsession, he must now find his way back.
Harry Gregson-Williams has done film score in the past for Antz, Shrek, and the Borrowers but in the Number 23, he works in the style of Edward Shearmur, who has created music for K-PAX, Reign of Fire, amongst others. In fact, the opening track, “Opening Titles,” reminds of Shearmur’s work immediately. It does create an eerie frame of mind as the movie begins, thus setting the tone for the impending darkness the film will slip into. The music is dependant upon electric elements as you’ll hear lots of synth as well as electric violin, cello, and guitar. The music often shifts between soft and fast-paced with a thumping heart below, many times within the same piece.
It all makes for good setting. As the film explores the fearful darkness within a man – making argument for the darkness encased within us all – the music of Gregson-Williams does a fine job in creating moments of tension to accompany the story as it unfolds on the big screen. With an ambient nature and a tendency to toss in bits of eerie synth sounds to go along with the orchestral work, the overall effect is as intensifying as the unfolding story.