Joker [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
Hildur Guðnadóttir has been creating stunning soundtrack work across the last half-decade. The classically trained Icelandic cellist has performed or arranged for Throbbing Gristle, Animal Collective, Pan Sonic and has released solo albums in and around working with the names mentioned above as well as Sun O))), Ben Frost and The Knife. Well, there are too many names to mention in fact.
But it’s her soundtrack work from recent years that has me captivated. Her score to Mary Magdalene (in collaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson) was so beautiful in the movie and was in fact, for me, a better experience than the actual film. I’ve yet to watch the Chernobyl mini-series but I’m already in love with Guðnadóttir’s score.
So, to the film Joker – and I didn’t love it, though I was pleased to have seen it. And you can click that link to read my review. But one thing I absolutely loved, right from before I had recognised the composer, was the score. I didn’t write about the music in the film review because by the time I had got home to put down my thoughts about the movie I was already listening to the score isolated from the picture. In fact I left the theatre and put the soundtrack in my ears straight away.
There was something instantly compelling, and world-building about this music when in front of the big screen.
One of Todd Phillips’ masterstrokes in creating his Joker-character was in the way he had Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck framed under bridges and between buildings, walking with the world piling up over his shoulders everywhere. Through the city and into his apartment, all insular – even when in the exterior. Guðnadóttir’s music matches the greyness of the palette and the mood.
The longest piece here is for the cue around Joker and a young Bruce Wayne meeting (Meeting Bruce Wayne). It’s interesting listening after watching, for that was the exact moment for me where I lost faith in the film. But as a piece of music it’s working hard to sell me – and nearly succeeding. It’s a classy piece of ominous brood-building when you listen to it alone, divorced from the picture.
I’ve had this score on most days since seeing the film. I’ve barely thought about the film itself but its kept alive in some sense through the music. I’m glad I can hear it for more than just an accompanying sound design aspect for a movie that jumped the shark.
But that’s the case with Guðnadóttir’s work. She’s one of the great new composers of cinematic music. And her Joker score is fast becoming one of my most listened to albums of 2019.
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