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In This World (Dario Marianelli)

April 10, 2016

Cover_InThisWorldIN THIS WORLD

Dario Marianelli, 2016, MovieScore Media
14 tracks, 57:42

“In This World” is as relevant today as it was the day it came out. With the Syrian refugee crisis in full flow, perhaps this score provides a moment to reflect on their tragedy.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Michael Winterbottom’s “In This World” was the winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2003. It tells of the plight of two Afghan refugees as they (Enayat and his cousin Jamal) embark on a perilous journey to reach London through Iran, Turkey and Italy. Based on the true story of the two central characters, Winterbottom’s movie won a lot of critical praise for dealing with a controversial subject that showed a different side of the Middle East whose role was just being reappraised in a post-9/11 world. The original score is by Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli (“Atonement”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Hummingbird“, “The Boxtrolls“).

What does it sound like?

“In This World” was released around the same time as the, naturally, much more playful “I Capture the Castle”. Marianelli had already scored numerous shorts and half a dozen feature films; but it’s still a couple of years before his breakthrough score for “Pride and Prejudice”.

“Michael Winterbottom had an interesting idea, when he talked to me initially about In This World,” recalls the composer. “He wanted it to look as if it was a documentary,  but at the same time, he wanted the sound of the movie to be as immersive and powerful as we could make it, and that included the music. I think his instinct proved right: it meant not being afraid to use a fairly large orchestra, and a score that tried to have a big resonant heart.” The score features authentic Middle Eastern folk songs performed by Parvin Cox and include haunting passages for the duduk performed by Dirk Campbell.

Marianelli beautifully integrates those folk songs into the fabric of his score as evidenced by the opening cue “Jamal Leaves Home” which sees passionate vocals being accompanied by noble string-and-brass chords, as well as light percussion. Without overcomplicating things, it’s an uplifting opener. It’s reprised beautifully in “Asylum Application N.1327783 B” – one of the catchiest cue titles I’ve come across.

Ethnic vocals play a key role throughout the score in cues such as “A Dodgy Deal”, “Being Stuck”, “Fifty-Two Hours” and “Orange Crates”. Often they’re accompanied by see-sawing strings, duduk and piano. You can tell we’re still in the immediate post-“Gladiator” phase when duduks and ‘wailing’ women were all the rage. It takes great skill to ride that wave without being swallowed by it. Marianelli clearly has that talent to take a trend and make it his own. Any similarity to “Gladiator” (and other Gerrard collaborations) is merely superficial; and with the passing of time it may by now have become a moot point. Yet I suspect that had this album been released in 2003, it may have suffered from a bit of backlash. Anno 2016, we live in different times with different trends and Marianelli’s popularity and status have since skyrocketed. The distance created over time allows us to appreciate this work more fairly.

“Sacrifice” features a fluid duduk performance over a quirky piano pattern and some light percussion. There is, in fact, something rather Thomas Newmany about it. Elsewhere, “Waiting in Istanbul” reminds me of Michael Nyman and probably more so Philip Glass, due to the use of staccato brass and winds figures. “Kundun” vaguely comes to mind, but I struggle to believe that that one still had any influence in 2003.

Large parts of the score rely on melancholy strings, performing slow see-sawing patterns. Marianelli does increase the tension a few times, highlighting the many anxious moments during the refugees’ journey. “Tehran” is the first cue to feature nervously fluttering brass, something the composer repeats in several other cues. In “The Invention of Music” the nervy brass and undulating strings remind me of Marc Streitenfeld’s “Prometheus”. Elsewhere “The Road Block” and “Across the Mountains” features an electronically manipulated sound that comes at you in waves. Combined with the agitated brass flutters it makes for a nervous few moments.

The album concludes with the string-driven “Elegy for Refugees”, which feels quite poignant through the repetition of chords and their growing intensity, a bit like Elliot Goldenthal used to do during the finales of his scores.

Is it any good?

It’s great to go back and explore one of Dario Marianelli’s earlier works. It doesn’t soar quite as high as some of the composer’s later works, but it’s a beautiful score nonetheless. “In This World” features wonderful, rich string passages, combined with free-flowing duduk performances and traditional vocals. It shows a great understanding of not just the orchestra, but of local instrumentations, something Marianelli continues to do ’til this very day through scores like “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, “Anna Karenina” and many others. There are a few agitated moments when Marianelli employs fluttering brass, winds and waves of digitally manipulated sounds; but for the most part this is an understated and melancholy work, underscoring the hardship of the refugees, their  fears and their losses. It’s a film that is a relevant today as it was back then. The album is bookended by two uplifting cues, providing hope, but the concluding “Elegy” is bittersweet, and all the more poignant for it.

Rating [3.5/5]


01 Jamal Leaves Home (3:38)
02 Sacrifice (2:25)
03 A Dodgy Deal (1:39)
04 Tehran (3:22)
05 The Invention of Music (5:02)
06 Being Stuck (2:02)
07 The Road Block (5:08)
08 Fifty-Two Hours (5:28)
09 Uneasy Ice Creams (2:54)
10 Waiting in Istanbul (2:29)
11 Across the Mountains (3:04)
12 Orange Crates (2:28)
13 Asylum Application N.1327783_B (2:38)
14 Elegy for Refugees (2:59)

For more information visit the MovieScore Media website.

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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