Film scores

Soundtrack review: Child 44 (Jon Ekstrand – 2015)

child-44-jon-ekstrand_1400

“Child 44” is a politically charged serial killer thriller set in a very troublesome and dark period: 1953 Russia. It benefits from a stellar cast (Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace) and it’s the story of a secret police agent who has a crises of conscience and loses power, status and home when he refuses to denounce his wife as a traitor. He is exiled to a grim forgotten province where he decides to investigate a series of child murders. I truly hope the 44 in the title isn’t the umber of victims… This was the kind of crime which didn’t exist in that period so the odds are once again against him. Russia fascinates me with its dark history and heavy impact. The music of Russian inspired movies is usually heavy and beautiful as well, dense and dark. I am very curious about this score written by Swedish composer Jon Ekstrand, a new name for me.

The score opens gently on the wings of a quiet violin. I can feel the weather getting slightly colder and the scenery around me changes towards a bleaker appearance. This cue paints around me different images in order to ready me for the journey of the score. The white and the dirty grey surround me and replace the colors I was used to. The warmth slowly dissipates and I am transported in the world the composer called me into. The piano of “There is only you” welcomes me there and shows me this is a place where feelings matter.

The lack of electronic sounds in this score makes it feel closer, more intimate. I can relate better to the story and the characters. There’s a constant pain in the background of Jon Ekstrand’s composition. The violin makes sure I never forget this is a sad story and its trembling changes of tone sound alive. The violin is a central character and it tells a story of its own.

“There is a witness” has the piano dig a deep hole in which the violin sounds burrows for cover. Towards the end of the cue the piano turns sweeter, more innocent as if its intention was to soothe the wounds caused by the previous minute. This is a brilliant cue, so layered, so intense, so beautiful. These 5 minutes alone make the album worth listening to.

Action cues like “The usual process” and “Apartment search” are gripping and can open “Child 44” to even broader audiences. Me I prefer the moodier cues but they could get a bit too much so variation is welcome.

What is also welcome is the sound of balalaika which I knew couldn’t miss from a score like this. That tremolo, those whispering and sighing strings are always special to hear. They deepen the doubts in “Are you a spy” and provide a special sound. Both the balalaika and the violin are woven deep in the fabric of this score.

There are many undertones in “Child 44”. There’s the sadness I talked about, there’s the suspense and ominous sound of pieces like “Alexander’s death” and “Seduced by stamps” and there’s action in other parts. Musical surprises await in almost every cue and this is the kind of score I will remember.

Jon Ekstrand wrote and intelligent and complex score and made a mighty fine first impression on me. This was not an easy movie to score and I’ve seen more famous composers fall in similar traps. “Child 44” kept me connected for the entire hour and made for a very rewarding listen. There’s something special about a score which relies mostly on acoustic instruments. Even of the story might be chilling, the music compensates with the warmth of strings.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 63

Album excellence: 58%

Highlights:

Opening

There Is Only You

There Is A Witness

Vlad

Are You A Spy?

Volsk

Raisa’s Confession

Seduced By Stamps

Meet The Malevichs

Return To Volsk

Captured

Aftermath

A New Home

Leo & Raisa Demidov

 

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).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment