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Soundtrack review: The man who invented Christmas (Mychael Danna – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The man who invented Christmas (Mychael Danna – 2017)

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“The Man Who Invented Christmas” is an upcoming British-Irish-Canadian drama film directed by Bharat Nalluri, written by Susan Coyne, and adapted from Les Standiford’s book. It stars Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, and Jonathan Pryce. Stevens will play Charles Dickens at the time when he wrote A Christmas Carol, with Plummer playing Dickens’s fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge, while Pryce will play Dickens’s father, John Dickens. In October 1843, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) was suffering from the failure of his last three books. Rejected by his publishers, he set out to write and self-publish a book he hoped would keep his family afloat and revive his career. The film tells the story of the six fever-pitched weeks in which Dickens created A Christmas Carol. The film takes audiences inside the magical process that brought to life Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and others, changing the holiday into the merry family event we know today as Christmas. Mychael Danna wrote the score.

Heh who isn’t familiar with Ebenezer Scrooge and his story; I’ve always wondered what prompted a novelist like Dickens to write this story and I will definitely watch the movie. Mychael Danna takes a break from writing film scores with his brother Jeff and goes solo on this one. Of course I can’t help but remember the fantastic score Alan Sivestri wrote for “A Christmas Carol” a few years ago. Danna starts with an elegant period piece, a waltz named “Curtain up” with the most delightful of violin motifs. The next cue “Three flops later” starts much more vivacious than a flopping situation would make me think. I am just charmed by this chamber orchestra score, melodic, elegant and playful. The tone is light and tender most of the times and even if I can’t find standalone cues to highlight the overall texture of the score is very pleasant and inviting. I like how the music builds up feverishly in cues like “Are there no workhouses?” and how the brass section evokes darkness.

“The man who invented Christmas” is one of those scores that will not rile you up emotionally but will leave a very enjoyable aftertaste; textural orchestral scores like this one are not that common these days (Carter Burwell wrote a couple in 2017) so I welcome any composer that writes such a relaxing Sunday score that makes me think of the small fanfares or orchestra playing in the gazebo in the park. There are also moments of orchestral intimacy and melancholy, like the violin in “The second ghost” that take me back to hours of listening of violin music both classical and in film and to a very natural comfort zone.

The elegance of the music that Mychael Danna wrote for this movie and the goosebumps I feel when I listen to “Still don’t have an ending” for example make me think that there couldn’t have been a better composer to write this score, to play the story and to give this the emotional depth and the periodic setting of Charles Dickens’ novel. The string pieces are grave and haunting and they balance the more relaxed and lively pieces to make for a complete and compelling musical canvas. Long live orchestral music and long live melodies.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 44

Album excellence: 57%

Highlights:
Damned Expensive Being a Gentleman
Charlie and the Necromancer
Are There No Workhouses?
Scrooge Appears
Lighten the Burden of Another
Ghost of Christmas Past
The Second Ghost
Time You Went Back To Devon, Father
Still Don’t Have an Ending
Than Your Own Flesh and Blood
Whose Grave Is That?
Who’s Going To Carve the Turkey?
In the Season of Hope

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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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