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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

Atonement's Oscar strikes the right note

By Norman Lebrecht / February 27, 2008

Dario Marianelli, who won Atonement’s only Oscar for its musical score, is a class act from the London melting pot and a rising counterweight to the dead hand that John Williams has laid for two decades on the soundtrack industry.

Dario, 44, came to London from Pisa in 1990 to do a post-graduate degree at the Guildhall and has lived here ever since, crossing generic tracks without inhibition. He has written concert works for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, interludes for fringe theatre, rhythm pieces for contemporary dance and a constant flow of work for former course-mates at the National Film and Television School.

His breakthrough came three years ago with Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm. Since then he has worked intensively with director Joe Wright on three movies – Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and, forthcoming, The Soloist.

Unlike most film composers who write by the yard to a final cut, Marianelli tends to compose scenes for Wright before they have a shooting script so that the director can walk his actors through their scenes to the rhythms of the music. Aside from Atonement’s obvious musical allusions to Brief Encounter, the sob-choke Second World War film of forbidden love, Marianelli resisted the romantic blur of a full symphonic band, working with the English Chamber Orchestra in a language that is both classical and, in Stravinskian mode, neo-classical. The leitmotiv of the tapping typewriter that follows the Briony character was his idea, a world apart from movie clichés.

I ran into Dario some weeks ago at a private screening of an old Korngold movie, which he had come to see as part of his ongoing craft education. His wide-eyed curiosity was refreshing in a trade that has grown cynical with over-sampling and his appetite for experiment augurs well for the sound of future movies. The Oscar will have trebled his price. Knowing Dario a little, I don’t think that will go to his head.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]



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