Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ladyhawke (limited edition) (Andrew Powell – 1984, 2015)

The surprises from the record labels keep coming. It seems every couple of weeks or so they release the limited edition score of a movie I have a big emotional connection with. This time it’s La La Land Record’s turn to gift me with a bug nostalgia shot as they released the complete score for “Ladyhawke”. Now this movie brings back wonderful memories for me. I’ve watched it lots of times and it is one of my most treasured fantasy films of the 80s. “Always together, eternally apart”… Michelle Pfeiffer shines as the princes Isabeau, who is in love with Rutget Hauer’s Navarre. They were both cursed to always be together but by day she is a hawk while by night he is a wolf. The can only see each other for a fleeting moment each day in their human forms and they have no memory of their animal form life. Matthew Borderick is the one who helps them get to their happy ending. It was such a joy for me whenever this movie was on… I remember one cloudy Saturday afternoon (I was already in college then) when I was getting ready to play football with my friends and just as I was getting dressed this movie came on. We just cancelled our plans and stayed in to watch it.

Ladyhawke was directed by the man who brought us Superman (Richard Donner) while the score was written by Andrew Powell with the help of another musician, Alan Parsons. Even if the original release of the score wasn’t perfect, the nostalgia factor of the movie alone kept it on my ipod forever I remember the music stood out while watching the movie. It wasn’t epic and orchestral; it was more rock oriented, lively and alert. Just take the “Main title” for example… such a joy to listen to. I always say I long for the 80s moody syth sound but the awesome and flamboyant 80s rock sound brings back just as many memories. It’s a cool, funky, distinctive and rugged sound, simple and efficient, and very precious to me. It actually is a bridge between the 70s and 80s. A cue like “The search for Philippe” just makes me smile and groove and close my eyes and think of another time.

If you listened to this score without knowing what movie it was about you’d imagine an action movie (police or martial arts) from those times, with a powerful leading hero and cardboard villains. You would never think the music was written for a Medieval sword and sorcery story. But just pay more attention and catch the subtle melodic inserts Andrew Powell plays with and the imagery will change immediately. The dirty and busy streets of the city you were thinking of will disappear and be replaced by green forests while the cars will become riders. The sounds of the city will morph into bird and animal cries and the smell will change completely. The forest, the nature landscapes are my most lasting images from the movie, if we don’t take into account Michelle Pfeiffer’s beautiful blonde face hidden under a hood.

The music is Ladyhawke is not always alert and funky. There are tense moments, quieter moments which don’t develop into themes, they sound more like inserts or fillers. But they are usually short and when a triumphant, inspirational gem like “Navarre is ambushed / Hawk injured” comes along I just forget about anything else and immerse myself in the wonderful world Andrew Powell created. Emotional moments like “You must save this hawk” or “Isabeau flies free” will warm your heart.

I enjoy the duality in the music. A lot of the story revolves around transformations, from man to animal and reversed and the music suggests that very well. When Navarre morphs the mood changes suddenly and the sound gets chilling and menacing. When Isabeau goes through her changes the music is romantic and wishful.

Andrew Powell’s score for “Ladyhawke” is a poster for the 80s. It’s not representative for the genre of the movie but it doesn’t matter. “Ladyhawke” was different anyway. This composition is pure, vintage 1980s goodness with everything that decade had best to offer from a musical point of view: raw tension, electronic percussion, pop / rock celebrations and the synth magic that never fails. While a very unusual score for a fantasy movie, this will please the ears of everyone who is nostalgic for that sound. The emotional and melodic moments will make an impression while many others will put you in a great mood. You’ll rarely hear a score so innocent and optimistic as the one Andrew Powell wrote. What more do you need from a score?

Cue rating: 84 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 58 / 130

Album excellence: 45%

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About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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