internationale filmfestspiele edizione


Berlino, 07 / 17 febbraio 2013



the scores

di Alice Fitzgibbon

> before midnight di Richard Linklater

> goLd di Thomas Arslan

> in the name of... di Malgoska Szumowska

> Les Misérables di Tom Hooper

> Night train to lisbon di Bille August

> promised land di Gus Van Sant

> side effects di Steven Soderberg

> THE best offer di Giuseppe Tornatore

> the broken Circle... di Felix van Groeningen
> the croods di Chris Sanders

> The Necessary Death... di Fredrik Bond

> vic+flo saw a bear di Denis Côté


in THE name of...
di Malgoska Szumowska

Composers: Pawel Mykietyn, Adam Walicki
Polonia 2012, 102'




The Polish film W’imie or In the Name of... is an unflinching and non-judgemental portrayal of a homosexual priest, Adam, as he comes to terms with his sexuality. As a whole, the film revolves around loneliness, an emotion which all of the main characters feel acutely. Adam’s own loneliness coupled with his growing attraction to one of the young boys in his care acts as the main catalyst for the events in the film.


The original soundtrack for the film, written by Polish composers Pawel Mykietyn and Adam Walicki is as powerful as the film it supports. Like the film it is subdued and very subtle in its approach. Its instrumental colours are pastel and faded consisting only of a string section and solo guitar. Its harmonic and melodic elements are minimalistic, often using repeated folk- like phrases and very sparse orchestration.  This subtlety was an essential part of Director Malgoska Szumowska’s vision for the film. In a Berlinale-2013 press conference both she and screenwriter Michal Englert described their search for a “subtle”, “simple” and “delicate” way to impart Adam’s story. As a score, Pawel and Adam’s music succeeded wholehearted in reiterating this desire in musical terms. The stillness caused by the lack of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic diversity produces an atmosphere of quiet contemplation. It establishes space and openness though which the audience is able to view Malgoska’s characters in the non judgemental, unbiased way she envisioned.
The score presents us with several main themes, two of which are particularly interesting. The first of these, the “running” theme, is used to accompany Adam’s daily morning run. For him, as he says in the film, “running is also a prayer” and this belief also manifests itself in the music. Mykietyn uses repetitive rhythms and sequential melodic fragments to depict the repetitive nature of running and the sense of meditation such repetition brings. The music captures quite aptly Adam’s wish to commune with nature, his own body and his soul. 

I think it is a testament to the composer’s skill that alongside this sense of meditation he also succeeds in capturing Adam’s mental state. Within the meditative repetitiveness there lies a palpable restlessness, an uneasy melancholy and a quiet loneliness. Through the music alone, the audience starts to sense that there is something consistently gnawing away at Adam’s mind, something mild, still in the background, but steadily gaining strength. It swiftly becomes apparent that this uneasiness stems from his dread of inevitably having to deal with his sexuality.
As a stand-alone piece of music, I particularly liked the slight baroque influence in this theme. Apart from the evident harmonic similarities, the theme sounds like it was recorded using analogue technology- thus keeping all the little inconsistencies and character of a live performance and in particular that exceptional richness of baroque instruments. Its rawness is very arresting to the ear and seems to reflect the rawness of both Adam’s emotions and the stark, beautiful landscape through which he is running.
Overall I found that this theme very successfully set the tone for the film. Placed as it is, at the very beginning, it was instrumental in helping to draw the audience member in and envelope them in the meditative yet troubled mental landscape of the main character and to endear them to his search for purity, self acceptance and an end to the biting loneliness that assails him.

 The second theme that caught my interest is the “love” theme which underpins moments of emotional connection between the main characters. It rings with a beautiful sense of honesty and earnestness. Structurally and harmonically it is very simplistic - however, I think it is exactly this simplicity which renders it powerful. It leaves the listener swimming in a warm wash of string harmonies whilst being serenaded by an unassuming but very tender little guitar melody. One of the most effective instances in the film regarding this theme occurs towards the middle of the narrative. Adam and his soon-to-be lover, Lukasz, are in a car stopped at the side of the road and share a moment of brief affection. It is one of the few moments where we see Adam opening up to another person. The music amplifies the sweetness and warmth of the moment. At this point the camera switches to a man in an oncoming car whose radio is blaring brash country music. The abrupt change of music collides two profoundly contrasting moments and strengthens the emotional sincerity of Adam’s moment with Lukasz.

To conclude, I feel that the score was well thought out and executed. It ticks all the boxes a score should tick and although its minimalistic characteristics render it weak when taken out of its intended context, it is none the less very good workmanship.

The Necessary Death
of Charlie Countryman
di Fredrik Bond
Composer: Christophe Beck, Deadmono

Stati Uniti 2013, 107'




Fredrik Bond’s debut feature film is an intense cocktail of fairytale surrealism and brutal reality. But despite this divergent dichotomy, the film emerges as a very well balanced whole. After the untimely death of his mother, Charlie Countryman travels to Bucharest to gain some space for himself whilst grieving. Space is however, the opposite of what awaits him. Almost immediately after arrival, Charlie falls head over heels in love with Gabi, a cellist who is also grieving the loss of a parent. He swiftly becomes embroiled in her life and subsequently the life of a dangerous criminal who is haunting her.

As a known director of music videos, Bond has predictably created a film where the soundtrack is almost an extra character in the plot. It thoroughly supports the film in every way, providing energy and momentum in high-speed passages and tranquillity in quieter moments, all the while fashioning a modern, edgy musical backdrop. This general modern sound encompasses all the good aspects of rave music: its surging energy, the catchy beats, the creative mixes whilst escaping its common downfalls namely the lack of distinct character and the vulgarity of overproduction. Composer Christophe Beck and his collaborators, the production team ‘Deadmono’ have walked this fine line well and produced a soundtrack that is predominantly subtle and refined.
I feel that the score was a success on several levels. Firstly, its rave/techno flavours really backup the vibrant energetic world of a 20something year old as portrayed in the film. Deadmono’s creative production effects are particularly perfect for capturing the slightly warped sensations of being high on drugs.
Secondly the score helps to blend the surreal aspects of the film with the harsher realities of Charlie’s life. A great example of this is the opening scene where we see Charlie hanging upside down, his face completely pulped and spewing blood. His lover Gabi is being forced by her obsessive ex-boyfriend to shoot Charlie on the spot. Overlaid on top of these horrific images is a very relaxed, slightly wry commentary by the wonderful John Hurt. The music underpins this fairytale narrating style with a very simple piano track played in a high register thus giving it a childlike sound. The harmonies are likewise sweet and gently romantic. Conversely, despite the delicate accompaniment, the overall result is a heightened sense of horror.
Thirdly, the score is particularly effective in the many ‘running’ scenes interspersed throughout the film. Some feature very heavy rave music and others, for instance Charlie’s run of joy after spending an evening with Gabi, are more melodic and uplifting. In each one, the music pushes the images forward with its energy.
Fourthly, I think the writes did a very good job of incorporating some Romanian influences into the score. There are several tracks featuring a Romanian styled vocal line, all of which present the Romanian folksong tradition accurately.
In conclusion I think the composers and producers have created a very original score which is completely in keeping with the film. Although it is not in any way a conventional orchestral work I think it stands a good chance of being welcomed by orchestral score fans given its subtleness and great writing.

night train to lisbon
di Billie August

Composer: Annette Focks
Germania 2013, 110'


Out of Competition


Night train to Lisbon is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Swiss author Pascal Mercier. Although I felt it by no means captured the mystery and vitality of the book, the film was none the less a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It describes a precipitous interruption into the otherwise monotonous life of a lonesome man, Raimund Gregorius, and follows him as he consequently journeys not only to another country but to a better self- away from the shrivelled and passionless man he is no longer interested in being.

The soundtrack, provided by the German composer and conductor Annette Focks, is very supportive of the film, providing a warm and embracing carpet of sound. In general, it maintains a small and intimate orchestration which effortlessly draws the listener in and invites them to become embroiled in Raimund’s voyage. The tone of the score is dominated by piano and string and although it came across as a little generic, it nonetheless had some very nice moments.
One such moment is the opening scene. It is clear here, that Director Billy August wished first and foremost to convey the repetitiveness, simplicity and the subsequent boringness of Raimund’s life. This was skilfully reiterated in the score: With a lonesome solo piano, accompanied very faintly by a high pedal in the upper strings, Focks extenuates the tentative melancholy already inherent in the scene.
The main theme- ‘Raimund’s theme’ is heard not long after this as he spontaneously hops onto the train to Lisbon. Its main motif wavers between the two notes of a ‘second’ (the interval) and is framed with offbeat chords. The harmony is simple and recurring. It is this theme and in particular this specific interval which becomes the unifying factor of the whole score. It suggests several things: Firstly, its repetitiveness mirrors Raimund’s previously repetitive life and secondly, the slow harmonic changes create a space in which one can sense Raimund’s propensity to ruminate. All in all it is very fitting for his character.

One of the highlights of the score for me was Annete’s very pretty musical image of Lisbon. The main theme for the city comprises of a free flowing, highly embellished air on a traditional Portuguese guitar gently supported by a simple tonic pedal in low strings. The lack of clear pulse and pedal bass creates an infectious stillness and languishing tranquillity while guitarist Daniel Pircher’s impressive technique provides flawless embellishments and flowing ornamented passages which weave a seductive warmth and romanticism into the music.

Despite this, it was Focks’ use of a muted trumpet for ‘Estefania’s theme’ that was by far the most interesting aspect of the score in my view. Its unexpected timbre and sound has an immediate and arresting effect- I found that it thus, very succinctly brought a sense of uneasiness and impending disaster to her character which was often not visually perceptible on screen.

To conclude, although in general Annette Focks wrote a very pleasant score, I felt it lacked interesting elements or any sense of novelty or notable creativity and came off as bordering on generic.

the broken Circle Breakdown
di Felix van Groeningen

Composer: Bjorn Eriksson
Belgio 2012, 111'




The Broken Circle Breakdown had so far taken Belgium by storm and for good reason. It was rightly granted the ‘Panorama Audience Award’ for a fiction film in the Berlinale Filmfestspiele 2013 and no doubt, more awards will follow. The story was originally co-written for the stage by lead actor Johan Heldenbergh, a history which really shows in the well written, natural dialogue. The film is a love story, unconventional in its stark realism. It chronicles the entire length of one couples relationship; its light-hearted beginning, its grief-fuelled struggle after the death of their only child and finally, its abrupt and crushing end.

The title of the film takes its cue from ‘Let the Circle be Unbroken’ and hints at the irreplaceable role that country music plays in the film. Musician and composer Bjorn Eriksson is the mastermind behind both the score and the production of all the music numbers. In a recent interview he commented on the importance of using country music, or more specifically Bluegrass music, in the film, saying; ‘The theme of the film is so heavy. Bluegrass is the perfect accompaniment to place everything in perspective.’
The selection of numbers consists mostly of those that featured in the original play plus a few extra all arranged by Eriksson. Each track fits seamlessly into the narrative and in places, even advances it. The carefully chosen tracks present us with a vital window into the hearts of the main characters.
One of the best song choices for me, was the decision to use ‘Sister Rosetta goes before us’ for Elise’s suicide scene. The lyrics match Elise’s thoughts precisely, for example: ‘the sound of hope has left me’ and ‘darkness held me like a friend when love wore off’. Its final verse is particularly important. Firstly, the team changed the name Rosetta to Maybelle- Elise’s dead child; ‘I hear Rosetta (my Maybelle) singing in the night’. Secondly, the line ‘Echo's of light that shine like stars after they’re gone’ poignantly references a snippet of dialogue featured at the start of the film where Didier describes the stars to Maybelle. The reoccurrence of this idea in the song brings an added sense of poignancy since the audience are in the sad knowledge that Maybelle’s own light which ‘shined after she was gone’ was simply not enough for Elise. Unable to enjoy her memory, Elise felt compelled to run from it by committing suicide. Such layers of meaning woven between the dialogue and the lyrics of the chosen songs add a whole other layer to the film.
The quality of the musicians involved in the film is impressive to say the least. For the sake of authenticity and out of respect for the music the production team chose to hire an ensemble that could perform musically to the same professional standard that they could act. It is thus little wonder that the cast had a very successful two months tour of Belgium in late 2012.
As for the score itself, it mirrors the music numbers perfectly in both instrumentation and music genre. The only difference to be found is a more sedate, gentle tempo. This is vital in allowing space for audiences to breathe after the often boisterous music tracks. The tone of the score is also more subdued than the numbers - providing a sense of earthiness as well as aptly underpinning the more harrowing scenes of Maybelle’s illness.
By far my most favourite aspect of the score was the use of some distorted sounds at the end of ‘Sister Rosetta goes before us’. These sounds are a departure from the normality of the score up until this point and are accompanied by some very visceral, quietly horrifying images. The overall effect is insinuatingly sickening and thus, a perfect representation of Elise’s last moments. The multisensory approach forms her despair and pain into a veritable physical sensation for the viewer.
To conclude, I would highly recommend this soundtrack: beautiful performances, great arrangements and a captivating mix of sorrow and joy.

Les Misérables
di Tom Hooper

Composer: Claude-Michel Schönberg

Original text by: Alain Boublil
Regno Unito 2012, 158'


Berlinale Special Gala


First envisioned as a musical in 1980, Les Misérables is based on the celebrated book of the same name by the French national treasure, Victor Hugo. As in the book, the musical delves into the grey areas that crop up whenever morality and law clash. It follows Hugo in his decision to tell the expansive story employing both a large time scale and numerous characters as essential features. Director Tom Hooper faithfully kept these features and hardly cut any of Schöneberg’s/Boublil’s original material, thus creating a very fan-friendly film remake.

Musically, perhaps the most outstanding feature of the film is the live voice capture technique they developed for the purpose of enhancing the film’s realism. The effect is quite mesmerising; by allowing the actors to sing whilst acting, the production team were able to capture every tiny nuance of sound down to the smallest inhalation of breath. The technique also gives unlimited freedom to the performers and puts acting at the centre of their concern, the result being perhaps some of the most emotional performances ever acquired for a musical-film.
In general, I found the choice of actors very well thought out however, my one criticism would be the choice of Russell Crowe as Javert. I found that his voice ultimately lacked the power and strength that the part requires: the vocals came across as slightly wimpy and withered instead of passionate and fiercely determined. Although, to be fair to Crowe, I think that, as a fan of Philip Quast's performance of this role in the 10th anniversary concert, I probably retain very little space in my mind for another version of the character. To me, Quast owns Javert. The 'comparison' videos popping up on Youtube will readily back me up I feel.
Another criticism I have is in relation to the manor of shooting Hooper employed for one of Valjean’s many soliloquies - ‘Who am I?’ I felt that they weakened the strength of this piece by shooting it in a broken, hurried manor as Valjean packs his bags. Perhaps another soul searching soliloquy so close in screen time to Valjean’s transformation moment would have slowed down the flow of the film however, I felt that this intense moment was unfortunately down-played and could have been much more powerful had it been shot differently.
Despite these slight blemishes, I thought that some very nice details were put into the film. Undeniably the most wonderful of these was the unexpected inclusion of the amazing Colm Wilkinson. Famous for his take on Valjean, Colm was cast in this instance in the very appropriate role of Priest Myriel who takes the younger man Valjean under his wing and ‘saves his soul for God’.
A second interesting detail was the ‘tuned’ incidental sounds that fitted into the film. For instance, in the scene where Colm Wilkinson’s character ‘Myriel’ gives Valjean two extra candleholders, the production team realised that the sound of them clinking wouldn’t sound correct unless it was tuned to the note Wilkinson was singing at the time. Likewise, the horse hoof beats in 'Suddenly' had to be highly edited so as not to interfere with the rhythm of Valjean’s soliloquy.
Thirdly, another detail that is not so apparent is the difficulty of the orchestration sessions that resulted from the live voice capture technique. Countless rhythms needed to be changed or stretched so that the orchestration catered exactly to the performance of the actors. On screen, the effect is seamless and belies all the strenuous work that was necessary on the part of the musical team.
Lastly, the inclusion of the song, ‘Suddenly’, came as a complete surprise. Not very often are songs created simply to fill a gap in a new medium. In this particular case, the song was composed at Tom Hooper's suggestion after he noticed that in relation to the book the musical was sorely missing a scene in which we see the love blossoming between Valjean and Cosette. The melody feels strange on the ears for a long time lover of 'Les Misérables’ however, I can see that it is very fitting in relation to the rest of the musical and I could very well imagine it sounds as natural to a first time listener as any of the other songs surrounding it.
To conclude, even including Javert, this is by far the best ever film remake of a musical I have ever seen.

the croods
di Chris Sanders

Composer: Alan Silvestri
Orchestrator: Victor Pesavento
Stati Uniti 2013, 90'


Out of Competition


THE CROODS is a riotous adventure of a film. Dreamworks has produced yet another charming children’s film, brimming with creative animation, fantastical landscapes and a well balanced cast of characters. Directors Chris Sanders and Kirk de Micco mentioned in a Berlinale Press Conference that the bareness of a caveman’s life quickly had them wrangling with some big existential questions. Their answers to which, filter down into the film and add a nice philosophical edge. However, I didn’t feel that the script in general was as strong as some of Dreamwork’s past productions. Nonetheless, for a family movie it presents a good balance of action, reflection and humour. 


The score, written by Alan Silvestri, is as action packed as the film - it is practically broiling with movement and fireworks. A film of this size and scope presents one of the few occasions where a composer has the space to use the full orchestra in all its glory.  Silvestri readily seized this chance and created a very versatile score full of colour, style and drama.

By far one of the most notable aspects of this score is the incredible orchestration. As a whole it was both varied and unified. Full orchestration was kept for the most rambunctious moments and then reduced or thinned out for less intense moments. It displayed an impressive variety of musical genres; for instance, in the opening ‘breakfast’ scene as the family fight crazily for food, the musical backing consists of a full-on brass band loaded with percussion. Later in the film, a more light hearted solo for the percussion section is featured as the family start to enjoy their ‘road-trip’. Further on, while the father-character, Grug, is attempting to be an ‘idea’ man the music sinks into ironic light-jazz percussion with a classy pizzicato line on upright Bass conjuring up the image of a refined French café full of casual intellectuals. Although the general ideas and musical outline of the score is undoubtedly Silvestri’s doing, it would be a crime to yet again overlook the mule of the film music world- the orchestrator. In this case, the orchestration was very skilfully done by Victor Pesavento and I believe he is owed some well deserved credit.

In terms of musical representation, I enjoyed Silvestri’s creation of a ‘stone age’ sound. He accomplished this mainly through instrumentation e.g. using a lot of brass in the score which added a brash, slightly clumsy and unrefined quality to the sound, and piling up on the percussion which were great at adding a primitive feel.

I have two criticisms of the score, neither quite serious. Firstly, I found the amount of “mickey-mousing” in the writing a bit hard to sit with sometimes. For me, this kind of intense scoring feels a little patronising. However, it is undoubtedly very effective for keeping young kids entertained. 

Secondly, as with most action packed kids films, I felt that there was an imbalance between meaningful silence and drama/action. This is primarily a fault in the screenplay but its effects were widespread in the score. Silvestri definitely lacked the space to develop a good set of themes. As far as I could tell only one main theme was expanded upon and this created a slight shallowness in the score.

In conclusion, if you are interested in a lesson on large scale orchestration, wish to experience some interesting percussion writing or just enjoy loud musical fireworks, this score is for you! But if you are looking for a more melodic, reflective score with detailed thematic development, I’d advise looking elsewhere.
* for the creativity of the score and Victor Pesavento’s exceptional orchestration

the best offer
di Giuseppe Tornatore

Composer: Ennio Moricone
Italia 2012, 131'


Berlinale Special Gala


'Theres always something authentic concealed in every forgery'

Giuseppe Tornatore weaves an intriguing tale of truth and falsity in this seductive romance-thriller. The narrative follows an aging auctioneer, Virgil Oldman, as he gradually falls under the spell of an enchantingly fragile client. It pivots quite suddenly from dark and mysterious to light and carefree however, as life becomes more and more idyllic for the couple, we are left wondering if everything is as it seems... or if, perhaps, there is some sort of forgery afoot?
The Best Offer is a triumph de force for the renowned Ennio Morricone. Out of all the actors and production crew present at the Berlinale 2013 film screening he rightly received the biggest applause. The score is everything the film could have hoped for and more. Indeed, I do not think it would be overly presumptuous to perhaps tender that it might even be the best aspect of the film as a whole.
By far the most glorious element of the work is Ennio Morricone's amazing ability to paint images with sound. There are several notable instances where this is particularly apparent. One such example occurs as Virgil gazes in awe at his squirreled collection of beguiling female portraits. Just as Virgil is dazzled, so too does Morricone dazzle the listener. A contrapuntal quintet for five soprano voices begins, each one entering alone in a series of staggered entries and each with their own individual melody and character. The vocal counterpoint is supported by a bed of strings and is given complete freedom. It thus perfectly captures in musical terms the image of those uncountable, perfectly preserved faces, each with their own unique history. In addition, the lack of clear harmonic structure allows the music to float and in the resulting space we can palpably feel Oldman's aching addiction to their frozen beauty. Likewise, we feel how his melancholy and loneliness feeds the possessiveness he has over them - they being his only solace.
The second notable scene is that in which Oldman enters the Ibbetson mansion for the first time. The weather is agitated with far off thunder rolls and rain laden clouds. Morricone imitates the thunder with sudden chords in the strings. Simultaneously, he perfectly reiterates the images on screen whilst also underlining the sense of intimidation and tension Oldman feels.
Lastly, in the mugging scene, Morricone overlays several layers of distraught strings in a contrapuntal fashion. The most dominant of these lines is based on a descending scale which personifies both the pouring rain and Oldman's despair. The effect is very reminiscent of Arvo Part's 'Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten'
Apart from his talent for writing image provoking music, another excellent feature in this score was the precision with which Moricone captured the elegance and refinement of Oldman's world - the extravagant restaurants, the beautiful auction house, the unnecessarily sprawling house. This was accomplished with a typical Classical sound; very Classical phrase structures, Classical-style counterpoint writing and the use of very solid solo violinists and solo sopranos, all Classically trained. This Classicism is most prevalent in the opening few minutes of the film where the score in dominated by a duet for two virtuoso violins. The brightness of the writing and way in which the two lines intertwine is very distinctly Classical.
In addition, I was particularly impressed with Morricone's use of the glass harmonica as a feature-sound in the score. The instrument is not often used and has, as a result, a very distinctive and pronounced timbre to the average filmgoing's ear. It is both unsettling and beguiling and is a perfect choice as a means to express the falsity that is being gradually and very neatly woven around the protagonist.
To conclude, I feel that Mr. Morricone has really outdone himself which is a hard feat at the age of 84 and with such a history as he has. I therefore would award this a resoundingly well deserved 28/30.

side effects
di Steven Soderberg

Composer: Thomas Newman
Stati Uniti 2013, 106'




Side Effects is a well paced thriller which follows a suicidal young women

Emily as she begins treatment with a new psychotherapist, Jonathan Banks. The film proficiently interweaves their two very individual stories to form a concrete whole, full of intrigue and a very interesting climax where the truth starts to crumble beneath our feet.
The score, written by Thomas Newman is the usual mix of electronics and live recording that has made Mr. Newman successful. It is, however, less orchestral than normal, appearing to be following the new, more minimalistic style that characterised Newman’s recent score to Skyfall. It is none the less a very successful score and succinctly captures some crucial aspects of the narrative as well as adding some very creative auditory effects to bring an extra dimension to the images on screen.
First and foremost, on a general level, I think Newman’s great accomplishment with this project is the consuming feeling of apathy which saturates the score. Deep lower tonic pedals in the bass and slowly changing harmonies coupled with some expansive synth soundscapes perfectly capture Emily’s mindset and work, like the script, on two levels. Firstly, as in the first paradigm the film offers us, these effects portray her drug-induced sluggishness, her inability to think clearly, her apathy to life and the general hopelessness of depression. Secondly, in hindsight after it transpires that Emily faked her symptoms, it becomes clear that the apathy being described was not in fact her apathy to life and the living of it, but actually to lies, the manipulation of an innocent people and ultimately her husband’s death.
The score also underlines the darkness of the narrative before we actually get any visual or narrative proof of something twisted going on. Whereas in the first paradigm, this sense of dread and foreboding appears to be the music’s description of depression, it becomes clear in the second paradigm that in fact, it serves a dual purpose and also highlights Emily’s very conscious plan to kill her husband and con the stock market.
On top of this general sense of apathy, passivity and underlying darkness, I think Newman really outdid himself by including some very nice little details in the music. Firstly, the distorted guitar which is prevalent in the score is a very strong sound with a definite sense of direction, something with purpose and a bite. I felt it offered a hint to the intentions underneath Emily’s outward passivity.
Secondly, at the end of Emily’s sleepwalk, in which she kills her husband, we see her get back into bed but we don’t see her falling asleep. Newman fills in this visual gap with the score. As the scene fades out, we hear a simple descending slide in the lower strings which perfectly invokes the image of a computer shutting down.
Thirdly, Newman uses a lot of bells and chimes in the score which is particularly effective during the sleepwalking sequences. This light, percussive tinkling captures Emily’s dreaming and child-like vulnerability whilst asleep.
Fourthly, I really enjoyed his use of the some marginal instruments in the score. One such instrument is the Zither. Its distinctly resonant but slightly harsh sound really suited some of the action sequences in the film. Likewise, the hang, an instrument only created in 2000 also added some extra momentum to these sequences with its characteristic cross-rhythms.
By far the most successful part of the score in terms of writing is, I think, the very opening shot. It is uncommonly long and completely silent providing a wonderful opportunity for Mr Newman’s scoring to shine. As can be expected, he succeeds in setting the emotional tone for the entire film and fills a very slowly moving shot with intrigue and interest. I particularly liked the way he developed the music for instance, in the beginning he kept the orchestration light and high up in register and finally when we first get a glimpse of blood and the images become darker and more intense, he brings in a low pedal in the bass creating a tangible ominous atmosphere.
All in all, I felt this score was well done and very happily married to the images on screen as well as the films general vision.

vic+flo saw a bear
di Denis Côté

Composers: Melissa Lavergne
Canada 2013, 90'




Two lesbian ex-convicts, a parole officer, a mysterious women looking for revenge and some bear traps

This film was quite an unusual mix. It is definitely no surprise that it won the Alfred Bauer Prize for ‘feature film that opens new perspectives’. There was certainly nothing very predictable or conservative about this Franco- Canadian film.
As for the soundtrack, I frankly feel that Melissa Lavergne was perhaps the wrong women for the job. I found that the score had very few upsides and some all too harrowing downsides. In general, the many pitfalls could potentially have been averted with a more instrumental or melodic approach to the score. However, given that Melissa is a trained percussionist, she of course chose to score the film entirely with a percussive soundtrack. This in itself may not have been too bad but she decided to use mainly untuned percussion for example drums, djembe, shakers etc. This created a dry score, one lacking any semblance of real emotion or expression. It can only be surmised that Director David Côté was looking for this sort of sound for his film however, I really felt that the percussive approach wasn’t effective. Even when it seemed so as, for instance, in some active sequences, it remained lacking in dept and substance. I could perhaps understand this choice of orchestration if the film had been written as a thriller but the narrative only gets disturbing in the last 10 minutes. Up until then, Lavergne’s orchestration just seems completely nonsensical and irrelevant.
I believe this score failed in several ways. Firstly it created absolutely no sense of place or time, which in itself is not a problem but given that it did very little else at all, this lack of grounding started to become very obvious.
It had ethnic influences e.g. ethnic percussive instruments and ethnic rhythms which were completely irrelevant to the story. The composer used no melodic tools to cover up this irregularity and craft it into something that actually makes sense, for instance; she could at least have used the instruments and rhythms as part of a tune intent on underpinning the emotions of the characters however, she didn’t.
The emotions of the characters were left completely untouched. Absolutely no attempt was made to add anything musically emotive to the film. I found this perhaps the biggest hole in Lavergne’s work, given that the film has some quite emotional moments.
In some scenes in order to create a sense of suspense and danger the composer chose to use a single drum beat. This drum beat seemed out of place and not really communicative. I can understand she wanted to perhaps capture the unpredictability of the “baddie”, Jackie, but I didn’t feel it was sufficient.
Although it is hard to add auditory coherence to a film that is ultimately incoherent, I felt that the composer made no endeavour to smooth over the various rough edges. This isn’t, of course, a must-do but I believe in this case the score had the opportunity of being the film’s saving grace. It could easily have provided some sense of unity through the creation of auditory liaisons between characters or recurring ideas/themes which were not obviously done through the cinematography/direction.
In short, I found the score a poor match for the film

before midnight
di Richard Linklater

Composer: Graham Reynolds
Stati Uniti 2013, 108'


Out of Competition


Richard Linklater has scored yet again with his third film in the series that began with the ground-breaking Before Sunrise. Before Midnight follows faithfully in the footsteps of its precursors, treating viewers to intense but humorous dialogue, impeccable chemistry and two very realistic multi-dimentional characters. Once more, Linklater’s script which was co-written with both lead actors sparkles with its gentle ponderings on life, relationships and the modern world, all infused with wit and sublime intelligence.

The music as in previous films is minimal but none the less a vital part of the work. It consists of two themes both of which are designed primarily to provide some much needed mental relief after the long and sometimes dramatic discussion that punctuate the script. Additionally they help create a sense of place. The gentle easy-going main theme for instance captures the sense of relaxation and the joie de vivre of life in Greece and even has a hint of traditional mandolin for good posterity. Interestingly it is written in waltz time and has a distinct waltz feel to it which is very reminiscent of the waltz Celine wrote for Jesse in the second film - Before Sunset.
As for the orchestration, the composer chose a limited light palate of colours mainly sticking to strings with some piano. Despite this he accomplishes a broad array of musical nuances. The theme passes effortlessly through several reworkings; the first, intent on portraying the idealistic Greek lifestyle, another focused on underpinning Jesse’s melancholy after their fight etc. Each reworking uses the same base material but manipulates it skilfully to match the precise emotions on screen.
The highlight of the score for me was the very first musical cue which begins as Jesse says goodbye to his boy at the airport. The composer brings in a solo piano with a tender little melody at slow tempo supported by block chords at the beginning of each bar. The block chords at such slow tempo create ample space in the music to allow the melody to shine through, the result being that you can feel Jesse’s anxiety, self-doubt and guilt as if it were your own. Gradually, as Jesse starts to leave the airport the music morphs into the more upbeat main waltz theme and we are ushered from the quietness of the airport into the business of Jesse’s life with Celine and the girls.
To conclude, within the context of the film I found the music to be a perfect match. However it isn’t much of a score in comparison to the full orchestrations I have heard here at the Berlinale; so despite being none the less well done I would award it 15/30.

di Thomas Arslan

Composers: Dylan Carson
Germania 2013, 113'




Gold follows a band of Germans who attempt to journey to Canada in order to profit from the burgeoning gold rush there. The film is more of an ode to the beautiful landscapes of Canada and North America than a riveting narrative. However despite this, the film never seems to get boring. Its quiet, unassuming character dramas really push the story forward and bring the audience along for the ride.

The score is as spacious as the landscape it describes. The instrumental colours are muted and very limited. A distorted guitar is the main sound colour in use and the rest of the tones and textures are electronically created with the exception of the odd tambourine note. Melodically, the main themes are very simple and consist of repeated phrases based on arpeggios. Harmonically, they are likewise simple and are often arranged over one long tonic pedal note. Overall, this simplicity comes across as sparse and barren. However, like the narrative, the score never really becomes boring.
I think that the main reason behind the listener’s sustained interest is the importance of sound texture in the writing. Even though at times, there is only one continuous note sounding, composer Dylan Carson electronically manipulates the note so that it is constantly changing and developing in some way. His clever use of sound effects and sound textures are strongly heard at one point when the company come across a stranger on the road at which point guitar effects, such as scraping and slapping, are used to create suspense.
The distorted guitar plays a huge role in the score. Its sound has a bite to it that brings a pointed Western feel to the score. This Western flavour matches both the genre of film and also the harsh man-led world that its characters live in. It is very effective in adding to the sense of pathos we have for the main character Emily, a staunchly independent woman who admirably struggles for her survival in this man’s world.
In general the tone of the score is unforgiving and unemotional. But instead of appearing dry, it reinforces the narrative by appearing to take the perception of nature and its disinterest in the characters: The landscape simply provides them with materials and resources. They can use these to either save themselves or hang themselves but nature isn’t particularly perturbed by either outcome. The score seems to be soaked in this same detached, slightly omnipotent point of view.
As a nice touch, there is some incidental German music included in the film. A member of the German troupe often plays folktunes on his banjo, one of which is the famous little Bavarian air ‘Muss i Denn’ which was popularised by Elvis Presley under the name ‘Wooden Heart’
In conclusion, although the score is a very good match for the film, I think its lack of tangible material would make it a very weak stand alone work.

promised land
di Gus Van Sant

Composer: Danny Elfman
Stati Uniti 2012, 106'




Are the decisions we make truly our own or are we being subtly but inexorably manipulated every day of our lives? This is the main question Promised Land poses. With an intelligent script and some strong characters, it presents an interesting insight into the business of PR, the ‘fracking’ industry and the power of the individual vrs a corporation.

The score for Promised Land is an unusual outing for the renowned composer Danny Elfman. His signature style as seen in films such as Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland is charmingly whimsical but often outlandish- blending magic and darkness into a heady mix which perfectly matches the creations of his long time collaborator, Tim Burton. However, the score for Promised Land is muted and flooded with a sense of well being. Even at its most extreme, the score retains a certain composure and quiet gentleness. It is undeniably well done despite being a notable departure from the norm and consequently demonstrates yet another string in Elfman’s well strung bow.
One of the most successful aspects of the score in my opinion is its general easy-going vibe. Elfman created this through the use of a predominately major tonality, a light orchestration consisting mainly of strings, percussion and a female soprano and the prevailing importance of texture over harmony. The result is a score which is light hearted and unhurried and one which highlights several important facts about the film.
Firstly, it conveys banality, both the expected: the banality of uncomplicated country life, and the more worrisome: the banality of Steve’s job- the subtle manipulation, the bribes, the lies by omission. Secondly, it conveys Steve’s genuine nature and his deep-seated belief that he is helping people by bringing them something they desperately need, in this case, money. This pervading sense of normality adds greater support to the larger message of the film and reiterates how important it is to be aware of the manipulation going on around us every day.
By far my favourite element of the score was the importance of sound texture. Elfman often brought instruments drifting dreamily in and out of the auditory spotlight over a bed of repetitive string rhythms and a tonic pedal bass. The effect was quite mesmerising- the listener was briefly able to register their individual sound texture and individual rhythmic line before they then faded back into the warm mush of the harmony and became once more nondescript. The composer was thus able to maintain the sensation of change and development without actually changing or developing very much at all. This effect is reminiscent of Terry Riley’s monumental “In C”. As an extension of this, his use of single female voice notes alternating between the right and left stereo made me smile. It’s a very nice touch which I haven’t heard elsewhere.
Overall I felt it was a very well developed score. Sadly, it did not have as much thematic development as I would have liked but this is highly understandable given that Elfman chose to tackle the mammoth task of 6 full scale scores this year. For this reason I would award it.



63.internationale filmfestspiele

Berlino, 07 / 17 febbraio 2013