Mica Levi first came to prominence in the occasionally punky, often arty, and sometimes shambolic Micachu And The Shapes. She was not the obvious choice to compose the score to Jonathan Glazer’s stylistic sci-fi movie Under The Skin. But there was clearly more to Mica than her Shapes, and she proved herself with that score; her music is an integral part of the film’s power. Levi’s contribution clearly had an impact on Chilean director Pablo Larraín, who chose her to compose the music for his first American movie, Jackie. Perhaps he drew parallels between the two main characters, Scarlet Johansson’s alien and Natalie Portman’s First Lady: strong women who feel isolated among a changing canvas of men. In each instance, Levi’s score does more than set scenes; it delves deep into characterization.
The score works remarkably well as a stand-alone piece, and the titles offer enough information for the listener to piece together the film’s narrative. The sequence “Car” / “Tears” / “Autopsy” / “Empty” is quietly devastating. In short pieces such as these, Levi uses a small ensemble built principally around strings, subtly pulling at the heart. For the most part, the pacing is understandably funereal. A few recurring themes, many featuring slow cello, contribute to the melancholy.
Some occasional guest instruments each capture a particular mood. “Graveyard”s military drum is self-explanatory, and the closest we get to a soundtrack cliché. The flute on “Vanity”, however, has a profound impact, giving the impression of a trapped butterfly dancing against a window, beautiful yet mournful. That phrase is probably the best description of Jackie Kennedy in this film, and the music best suited to capture and echo her emotions. Portman’s performance is likely to stir deep emotion in audiences who have might regarded her more as the remote ‘Jackie O’ than as a person suffering trauma, loss and grief. Mica Levi’s score can only enhance the cinematic experience. (Jeremy Bye)