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Soundtrack review: Tuntematon Sotilas (Lasse Enresen – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Tuntematon Sotilas (Lasse Enresen – 2017)

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“Tuntematon Sotilas” (The unknown soldier) is a film adaptation of Väinö Linna’s best selling novel The Unknown Soldier (1954) and the novel’s unedited manuscript version, Sotaromaani. Published in 1954, it is a story about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union as told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers. Gritty and realistic, it was partly intended to shatter the myth of the noble, obedient Finnish soldier. Lasse Enresen wrote the score.

The prologue immediately gets to me with its dark and misty sound; “Prologi” is a quiet orchestral piece that sets the tone of the score without a shadow of a doubt; the instruments play subdued and serious and the flute section rises like a butterfly from the ashes. The music moves slowly even when it’s more alert as if each step was carefully planned and cared for; I like how the music opens up layer after layer of orchestral beauty as each separate section of instruments, the woodwinds, the strings or the horns give each other space to develop their sound. The first few cues from this score feel like the beginning of a long and hard journey, one that’s taken alone. I like the way some string motifs are played as if the bow rhythmically and slowly hits the strings instead of playing them; it’s that shiver, that hesitation that I imagine occurs often in the mind of the soldier and that Lasse Enresen transposes very well into music.

There are subtle Russian inserts to reminds us of the enemy in the story as the balalaika slowly wails in “Matka Petroskoihin”. This cue is the liveliest so far in the score and sounds like an elegant waltz. I always love an orchestral score where if I close my eyes I can almost see the way each instrument plays as the separate motifs shine an imaginary light on each section. When the emotions are no longer restrained the different instruments come together and music gets broad as if a window was suddenly opened with an abrupt gesture in a house where each motion is quiet and calculated. There is a stark contrast between the lyrical and melodic cues and the aggressive and almost dissonant ones that probably depict battle and drama. The fragility in the quieter string pieces is touching and it’s the best thing in a score where sometimes emotions feel too restrained and thick, dense suspense takes over. I just love the tense orchestral buildup in “Tankki”.

“The unknown soldier” is a poignant minimalistic war score that tells a musical story from the point of view of the lonely individual, with his fears and tribulations rather than focus on the violence and horrors that happens around him. The dark texture is build by keeping the instruments mostly restrained and played for the most part with short movements. As beautiful as this score is I must admit at times it got a bit frustrating being so quiet and morose without an emotional release but I cannot ignore the movie this score was written for and what it stands for. I realise how much I needed this when the final suite “Rauha” gets meaningfully and powerfully epic at the end to mark the climax of the movie. Musically it is a masterful and brilliant orchestral exercise and one of the more special scores I’ve heard in 2017.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 36 / 59

Album excellence: 60%

Highlights:
Prologi
Matka Alkaa
Raskas Taival
Rajan Ylitys
Perhe
Lähtö Petroskoista
Tankki
Viimeinen Taistelu
Rauha

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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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