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Soundtrack review: Fremde tochter (Dürbeck & Dohmen – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Fremde tochter (Dürbeck & Dohmen – 2017)

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“Fremde tochter”(Strange daughter) is a German movie which reflects upon the issues raised by the Muslim minority in Germany and Austria through the story of 17-year-old Lena. Living together with her mother Hannah, the girl often prioritises her cleaning job over attending school. Once she meets an intern named Farik at her workplace, Lena sees something new – somebody who has aims, goals, a purpose. Also, he happens to be Muslim. Despite initial reservations about each other’s beliefs,,Lena and Farid start a relationship – and when she gets pregnant, Lena considers converting to her boyfriend’s faith. The score was written by German duo Dürbeck & Dohmen.

I have a soft spot for hearing vocalisations or humming in film music; be they children’s choirs, female voices in the background or a quiet little melancholic hum like the one Insa Rudoplh does in “Opening”, it makes a cue sound much better and adds to its emotional impact. Every track where she almost absentmindedly uses her voice to accompany the strings that make up the musical part is a precious little nugget; the way she sings reminds me of Tori Amos on “Great expectations”. The story is about a 17 year old girl and the vocal parts fit very well. The voice also trembles like a chord that’s been touched and continues to vibrate afterwards or wails when the moments need to hit harder emotionally like in “Escape”; I hear the internal conflict as the two different voices of the same person play over over the other. I love how sighs and heartbeats complete a fascinating cue.

The music is very minimalistic; the composers made the musical journey very intimate and personal. Long and sparse string motifs, dark and shadowy, make for an unwelcoming soundscape. The composers manage to capture the character’s angst with very little sounds; “On the roof” also has the echo of an electric guitar motif that sounds quite menacing. For me this cue is the epitome of darkness and the eternal conflict before taking a step over the edge.

The music is extremely textural and there are subtle variations in the emotional fabric. I am a big fan of minimalism in film music and here Dürbeck & Dohmen wrote a soundscape whose undertones are meant to show fragility, fear and doubt. Every new moment in the story and every new step in the character’s evolution feels harder and more painful and I get a Twin Peaks level darkness in “I’m pregnant”; the darkness in this cue affects me and I feel as if there is no escape. The more I listen to this score the more intensely it hurts and I cant help but think that sometimes the most effective forms or torture are the simpler ones. The composers use sounds that sound like sighs, or a saw cutting through wood, or a glass brush moving alongside a wall to make their music even more visceral.

This will not be a score for everyone; it’s about as farther from a thematic orchestral score as film music can get. “Fremde tochter” is grounded glass and chipped stone and nails. If you have been turned off or frustrated by recent works by composers like Mika Levy or Cristobal Tapia de Veer chances are you will have trouble with this score; trust me though when I say that there is honey in here as well. This score is pure, raw, painful emotion and I don’t need to see the movie to feel the hurt and hope of the story.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minute of excellence: 25 / 37

Album excellence: 68%

Highlights:
Opening (feat. Insa Rudolph)
Conception (feat. Insa Rudolph)
On the Roof
Escape (feat. Insa Rudolph)
I’m Pregnant
Devastated
In Bed with Mom
Runway
Transformation
The Last Escape (feat. Insa Rudolph)

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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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