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Soundtrack review: The white king (Joanna Bruzdowicz – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The white king (Joanna Bruzdowicz – 2017)

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“The White King” is a 2016 British sci-fi-drama film written and directed by Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by György Dragomán. The film follows Djata (Lorenzo Allchurch), a 12-year-old boy growing up in a dystopian territory, called Homeland, under a dictatorship and without access to the rest of the world. His father, Peter (Ross Partridge), tells him of the true nature of Homeland as well as of a treasure guarded by a man named Pickaxe (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). Peter is later taken away by two government agents, leading to him and Djata’s mother Hannah (Agyness Deyn) being labelled traitors by the government and the citizenry alike as Djata works to discover the whereabouts of his father. The music was written by Joanna Bruzdowicz.

The opening title “Homeland history” nails the dictatorship sound for me with it’s cold marching and the purposely pompous string motifs; I can actually hear the irony in the music as if the composer mocks the ways of that dystopia. The cue is orchestral with a twist because the percussion, the strings and the horns seem to be played differently than normal. Things seem to be getting back on track with the lovely violin theme “Family”. It’s clear from the beginning of the score that the composer has separated the sounds for the outside world and for the inner world, the home of the main character; one is that ironic, almost Coen Brothers like quirky dark fatalistic sound, with cold solo percussion that mimics the steps taken by some cold blooded assassin and the strings that wail the tragedies of the innocent victims and the other one is warmer and more melodic, also string based, as heard in the gorgeous “Innocence”; the music is enjoyable and rewarding with both of them but naturally I am more drawn to the emotional parts.

The composer creates the entire soundscape of that world, including folk songs and motivational anthems of “Homeland”; it’s not often that a score plays so true and genuine to a story, to a made up land, and I applaud what Joanna Bruzdowicz does here. You can have your pick of what kind of music to like but I assure you there will be something to enjoy in “The white king”. As a film music, and music in general fan I am giddy at any score that’s bold enough to be different and stay enjoyable. One could say this score is minimalistic and a constant duel between percussion and strings but the bottom line is the music is captivating and unusual and the warm / cold alternance in the mood somehow gets me closer to the story. Some cues (like “Asshole” for example) are more experimental than others but just as interesting.

“The white king” is a war score like I’ve rarely heard in recent time; rarely melodic, it’s a combination of serious and ironic, of warm violins and tortured strings and percussion, of loving and neurotic and it was fascinating to listen to. I will surely return to it because I’m sure the next listens will give me different feelings and I might discover new nuances. I am also thinking of seeing the movie because the curiosity of hearing the score in context is just eating me up.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 37

Album excellence: 50%

Highlights:
02_Family
05_Innocence
08_Curfew
13_They Got to You
17_The Long Walk
19_Wanna Play
20_It_s Gonna Be Okay
23_Pickaxe
24_Where Have You Been
26_Broken Heart
28_Reunion
29_I Will Never Stop
30_The White King End Credits

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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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