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Soundtrack review: The tale (Ariel Marx – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The tale (Ariel Marx – 2018)



“The Tale” is a 2018 American drama film written and directed by Jennifer Fox. The film tells the story about Fox’s own childhood sexual abuse and how it affects her later relationships. The Tale stars Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Ritter. Can our memories mislead us? Does the mind unconsciously reframe the truth to make it palatable? Jennifer Fox (Laura Dern) faces a host of life-altering questions after a short story from her middle school days forces her to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Ariel Marx wrote the score.

The score opens with a tender and light guitar and piano cue, “The Story You Are About to See Is True, As Far as I Know”. Somehow I expected this overall sound for a story like “The tale” because it’s a sensitive, delicate subject and the music needs to evoke that without getting loud or aggressive and even without telling the listener what to feel. Minimalistic, almost ambient is the way to go and Ariel Marx thought the same; the cues feel more like pieces of something bigger rather than fully defined themes. I like it that even within these minimalistic confines the composer finds places to explore and elements to add, like the piano motif in “A Woman Who’s Married; a Man Who’s Divorced”, written like a musical question mark.

Ariel Marx also cleverly brings the questions and dilemmas of the story in her music by weaving string motifs together in a complex web that feels like a musical labyrinth; “Jenny, Jenny, Jenny with All Your Questions” is the best example of a cue like this that makes me raise questions of my own. Other cues are linear, melodic but there’s almost always an undertone, another motif hidden beneath the music, in the background, like a lingering element that never goes away.

Usually minimalistic music for me is reflective, stays in the background, but it’s not the case with “The tale” because this particular composition grabs all my attention and makes me think, feel, it evokes melancholy, doubt, uncertainty all because of the way Ariel Marx combines her sounds and instruments, even including the delicate flute in “I got something else” which is part of a fairy tale sounding passage of the score together with “Jenny & Jennifer” and I imagine this is the part of the movie where past and present are intertwined.

Female composers are having a great year in 2018 and Ariel Marx, a new name for me, is no exception; she brings sensitivity and warmth to a difficult subject while evoking also the pain and angst. Not an easy task for a minimalistic score; I also remark how there’s no hatred and barely any anger in the music which focuses on feeling and healing.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

I Got Something Else
Jenny & Jennifer

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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