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Soundtrack review: Loveless (Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Loveless (Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine – 2017)

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In LOVELESS, Zhenya and Boris are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration and recriminations. Already embarking on new lives, each with a new partner, they are impatient to start again, to turn the page – even if it means threatening to abandon their 12-year-old son Alyosha. Until, after witnessing one of their fights, Alyosha disappears. Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine wrote the score. It’s worth to be noted that they started writing the score before sing any frame of the movie, based on just the story the director told them. It’s an interesting approach as it makes the music related to the central idea of the movie as interpreted through the personal emotions of the composers.

The score opens…without music but in a way that’s poignant and with a powerful impact in the context of the story: the background noise of a playground full of children; then suddenly there’s silence and a sparse repetitive piano motif evokes shock and loneliness; there’s also a constant pulsating sound that might be one piano key being hit repeatedly to make me think of a heartbeat. The central piece of the score is “11 cycles of E” which is an obsessive cue in which the composers wanted to express the one single thought and idea that becomes the focus of the characters: finding the child. It’s one note, one rhythm that keeps repeating itself, building up, getting louder; one note for the flute, one note for the piano, one short motif for the horn and one chord for the strings, all of them coming together. It is one of the most fascinating cues I’ve heard this year. I like the cacophony of sounds, the neurotic nature of the music, the overall hypnotic tone. It’s a strange piece as there is no melodic line; the cue is too fragmented and there are many different pieces coming together but I love how raw and honest it is and how well it plays obsession.

The troubled and tortured nature of the orchestral sound goes on even when the motifs are longer; the instruments are played nervously, differently which makes this score captivating and interesting to listen to; sometimes the string motifs are sparse, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis style and that night is interrupted by sudden flashes of piano. Other times the composers go for a proper heartbreaking cello motif like in “The search” which is warmer than everything I’ve heard to far in the score. I can never pass on a powerful cello theme.

I like a score that mixes it up and delivers both meaningful orchestral pieces and textural ambient ones. Evgueni and Sacha Galperine manage to play the instruments in ways that create ambient textures without resorting to electronic or sound effects; the trembling strings, the various wooden instruments, the organised chaos in a cue like “Snowstorm” that somehow makes sense are all elements that make me want to hear more and more from them. It’s rare to hear so much clarity in an apparent musical confusion and to relate so well with an angsty and experimental score. The combination of melody and punctuated hits, warm and cold, it’s all a delight to listen to. Also the moments when the music stops and you either hear that idyllic playground at the beginning of the score or the mother shouting in the distance, desperately, for her missing son help make this score visceral and believable. As a standalone listening experiences “Loveless” is one of the more rewarding I’ve heard lately and It definitely a must hear for film music fans.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 30

Album excellence: 77%

Highlights:
11 Cycles of E
The Search
Snowstorm
Alyosha
The Song
The Toy Train

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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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