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Soundtrack review: The lion woman (Uno Helmersson – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The lion woman (Uno Helmersson – 2017)

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“The Lion Woman” tells the tale of Eva Arctander, a girl who suffers from a rare genetic disorder which makes hairs grow over large parts of her body. Born in 1912 while her mother dies during childbirth, Eva’s father initially tries to hide his daughter, but Eva cannot be held back from achieving her dreams. Despite humiliating examinations and bullying, Eva still falls in love, experiences respect and disrespect and discovers company by joining in a theater group featuring other folk who also suffer from rare diseases. The film follows Eva through ages 7, 14 and 22 in a most unusual coming-of stage story. The score was written by Uno Helmersson.

The main theme gets to me right away as it’s a beautiful rolling piano motif, melodic and emotional that warms me up to this score. I will never get enough of hearing a solo piano theme in a movie score. Every time that motif recurs in the score I am just charmed and I
just close my eyes and enjoy it even more. It doesn’t take long for it to define the identity of the score.

Even if the opening is tender and melodic I know that the score will not be all like this since there is real drama in the story. “The birth” is the first moment where the orchestral music is combined with a dark electronic textural sound that supports the haunting cello motif. This motif comes back in “Gustav” the theme for the father and I am suddenly having a hard time deciding which of the two themes, the piano for the girl or the cello for the father is my favourite. I have a little girl named Eva so in a weird way it gets me closer to the score.

Not soon enough to I get attached to these two motifs that the composer dives even deeper with the emotions and pieces like “Christmas party” or “Hanna and Eve” border on the fairy tale with the chimes and their sweet melodies. With every cue I am getting more emotionally attached to the score and the story. It’s like every cue I listen to I feel is an emotional and melodic peak and expect the music to let down but the next one is just as good and meaningful and I find myself listening to a score that with every note and motif climbs higher in my ranking for 2017; “The lion woman” makes me fall in love al over again with both the piano and the cello and Uno Helmersson finds ways to combine simple motifs into melodies that give me goosebumps. The tone changes with the story as it gets darker and painful in “The abuse”, still just piano and strings, and delightfully hopeful in “The search for Eve”.

For me film music is all about making me feel something; whenever I start listening to an album I am opened to experiencing what the composer tells me but I am rarely prepared for a composition that keeps me emotionally invested from start to finish; usually there are breaks in the intensity or lighter cues or moments when I still feel the impact of past cues. It’s not the case here as Uno Helmersson delivers one of the most beautiful and poignant scores of the year. Every cue is a gem and as the music dances from dreamy to painful and back and I feel every single minute of this score; every cue is fresh, every cue feels like the first impact of the score and it’s compositions like “The lion woman” that make me happy I have an “emotional impact” grade in my personal index; it was created precisely for scores like this one that is pure emotion and beauty from beginning to end. Do yourselves a favour and welcome it into your lives because this music will brighten up your day and make a film music fan out of you. It’s scores like this that keep me in love with film music and keep me constantly searching for hidden treasures because one cue from “The lion woman” is worth sitting through a dozen sub par scores. Thank you Uno Helmersson and MovieScore Media.

Cue rating: 98 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 51 / 57

Album excellence: 89%

Highlights:
The Lion Woman
Opening
The Route
Gustav
Hanna and Eve
Christmas Party
Being Different
The Telegraph
The Search for Eve
First Day at School
Gnistan
The Abuse
Gazing Through the Window
To Copenhagen
At Copenhagen
Home by Bike
Growing Up
Sorbonne
Gnistan Leaves
The Drawings
Coda

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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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