Something amazing has been happening in the field of film scoring. Over the last few years, we’ve watched an increase in the number of scores that work just as well as independent albums. A Score for Darling is the latest of these. And while we really want to see this Danish release, chances are it won’t see wide release, especially in the subtitle-phobic U.S. In one arena, the trailer does its job well, impressing viewers with the plot, direction, acting and cinematography. But the album performs a similar feat, creating interest in hearing this music on a huge sound system. It’s worth adding that the laser-cut LP cover also engenders a sense of mystery; we want to see how it all turns out.
This music came about when director Birgitte Stærmose “wanted to try a new direction.” She enlisted the aid of Rauelsson (Raúl Pastor Medall) and Erik K Skodvin (Svarte Greiner & half of Deaf Center), neither of which had composed a film score before, but each of which were cinematic. Turns out this was a great idea. Fans of instrumental music could have guessed from the start, while many directors might not. Also contributing to the project are Anne Müller, Christoph Berg, Otto A Totland and Katinka Fogh Vindelev, their talents only adding to an already expressive set.
So what feelings does one glean from the album? A sense of drama, obviously, but also tension, beauty, yearning, grace. Totland and Vindelev’s closing “Breathe” wraps it all up. The only vocal piece, the track serves as the end credits, offering what sounds like a wordless elegy. Does the main character die? (We don’t know, and please don’t spoil it for us!) If so, this is the sort of track that would keep audiences in their seats, waiting for their tears to dry.
Earlier tracks yield a sense of heroism (due to the surging strings) and holiness (thanks to the church organ). This is music of striving and (perhaps) achieving; but there is also a sense of nobility in the striving itself, separate from any achievement or lack thereof. There’s an impression of time running out, as portrayed in a percussive ticking sound threaded throughout the score, sparking comparison to “Dunkirk.” In “Invincible,” a sound like a slowing heartbeat cements the association, while making the opposite argument: we may think we’re invincible, but we’re not. The center of the album is filled with such sadness that one feels the heroine’s pain, even without the images.
A Score for Darling is easily one of the year’s best film scores. We know this because it fits beautifully with top tens of prior years. But the album is also a standout in its own right, another example of the continuing evolution of film scores as an independent art form. (Richard Allen)