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Soundtrack review: The king’s choice (Johan Soderquist – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The king’s choice (Johan Soderquist – 2017)



Erik Poppes film “The King’s Choice” is a historical drama, telling a fateful episode of Norway’s history. On the 9th of April 1940, the German war machine arrives into the fjords of Oslo with the warship Blücher. Norwegian monarch King Haakon VII faces a choice that will change his country forever. While the German invaders strongly advise the King to nominate Norwegian Fascist-leader Vidkun Quisling as the prime minister, the king together with his government makes a brave choice. Starring Jesper Christensen (recently seen as Mr. White in the James Bond movies), The King’s Choice was the official submission of Norway for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category of the 89th Academy Awards. Johan Soderquist wrote the score

The score opens with the title theme “The king’s choice” and it’s an elegant drama cue that uses the strings and piano in that special way that only Scandinavian composers know how. The piano is furious while the strings douse down that passion to keep some sort of balance. The two very different motifs actually give me a feeling of a choice, of two opposite sides being taken into consideration. I lean more towards the orchestral sound since I expect more of it for a historical drama but the composer keeps it somehow behind or at most on par with the ticking electronic sound that builds up the tension; it’s this feeling that dominates the score.

While the music is nice and enjoyable also as a standalone listen, the drama and tension feel a bit impersonal as cues like “Golgatha / Father and Son” grind away without any sense of closure; I also feel a lack of deep emotional impact in the music. When the strings come on there is hope for that but the the intensity dies down again and I don’t feel inspired or affected by the music. It’s tension with the occasional, albeit superb, piano or strings inserts that I wish there was more of. The main motif of this score seems to be that electronic ticking that comes back obsessively and it doesn’t have a lot of weight to stand on.

I find bits and pieces of music to enjoy in this score, like the aforementioned orchestral inserts and the occasional reflective, ambient passage but they are too often interrupted. The sound of “The king’s choice” is much to modern and experimental from what I wanted and expected to hear in a historical drama score by Johan Soderquist. A cue like “Quisling’s Speech” is quite frustrating to listen to as it brings neither drama nor motivation.

“The king’s choice was an uneven score that didn’t hit neither the orchestral drama sound nor the stringy sound of scores like “Vikings”; it maybe tried to combine both but the result was a standalone listening experience that didn’t do much for me. The meaningful moments exist but are scattered and don’t build up into much. A rare misstep from Johan Soderquist in my book.

Cue rating: 76 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 40

Album excellence: 9%

Leaving the castle

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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