Music Composed by: Alfonso G. Aguilar
Movie Genre: Animation
Movie & Soundtrack Release: 2019
Label: Epic Records
Available as a digital stream/download only
__ SPOILER ALERT __
“A wonderful soundtrack like the one of Alfonso G. Aguilar
for the movie “Klaus” cannot be deprived of the people’s attention.
It is the kind of music that the cinema needs,
music that can mobilize our inner world.”
Once there was a woodsman in the forest who strongly believed that an act of goodwill always sparks another. Until he met a postman, who ignited in him the spirit to put this belief into practice. Klaus the woodsman and Jesper the postman jointly engaged in many acts of goodwill, giving thus another meaning to Christmas and giving birth to the legend of Santa Claus. The Netflix movie “Klaus” (2019) was the biggest surprise in the Oscar nominations in the category of best animated film, managing to ostracize other movies that seemed to hold a firm position in these, such as “Frozen II”.
The screenwriter and director of the movie “Klaus”, Sergio Pablos, assigned the movie’s soundtrack to the composer Alfonso G. Aguilar very early, much before the movie started being implemented. The visualization of an animated film is a complex and time-consuming process. While seeing gradually the progress of its visual completion, the composer adjusted his compositions so that they are consistent with the images in the most effective way. Of course, the musical suggestions of the director were available, the so-called “temp score” (temporary score), which were acting as a guide for the composer, but the most important is that the director did not force the composer to copy them, aiming at composing something similar. What he wanted the composer to do was to take them into account on the one hand, while trying anything new that would function emotionally on the other hand. And this initial stage in the cooperation between director and composer can determine how great the musical product of a composer will be.
The music kicks off in the most delicate way with the track “Α Story About Letters” (#2), where the narrator starts telling a fairy tale with letters and very soon refers to the chubby gentleman in the red suit who receives letters from young children with their wishes for Christmas gifts. When he refers to him, at 00:27 of the above track, a motif discreetly appears, which can be expected to be the musical theme of Klaus. We will subsequently determine whether it definitely is that.
We are in the Royal Postal Academy, where the future postmen are being trained. The spirited and energetic music that follows the aforementioned motif concerns the fever of activities in the Academy. There is military dedication and discipline and this is the reason for the characteristic military introduction of “I’ve Got Someone Covering For Me” (#3). The percussion instruments accompanying the walking of a postman trainer cause a comical result, as perceived by the movie’s viewer.
Jesper is a rather unsuccessful postman trainee. We first meet the character while he is enjoying his coffee lying on a couch. His relaxed and carefree mood is highlighted by the music from the point 00:08 of “I’ve Got Someone Covering For Me” (#3), with a guitar involved. The father of the spoiled Jesper and head of the Postal Academy, forces him to work as a postman in a remote part of the North, in order to accept him back home. During his road trip with his dilapidated carriage, he suffers a lot and, while talking to himself, he ironically thanks his father for the new job he assigned to him. At this point we will hear another alternative orchestral version of the relaxing music that preceded when Jesper was lying on the couch. This track does not exist in the soundtrack, but it is noteworthy because here the musical approach works against the images. The ironic mood of the character fits perfectly together with the ironic mood of the music. The character’s challenge is complemented by a light musical accompaniment. The composer’s musical intervention converts a difficulty experienced by a character of the story to a humorous situation in the eyes of the viewer. When the visual and musical parameters move in opposite directions, then the comical element usually emerges.
Jesper has completed his road trip and is on board heading towards the town of Smeerensburg, which is his destination. Then, the music’s atmosphere radically changes and cultivates a chilling atmosphere, describing the place towards which Jesper travels, in the most eerie and threatening way. In fact, the music here presages all these that Jesper will soon find out. Namely, it prepares the viewer for a future condition. A foggy shore appears on the horizon. When Jesper disembarks in the deserted town, he discerns those very few people who are out of their houses acting as would-be murderers. This inhospitable place turns into a threat to his physical integrity, maybe even to his life. The music in “Welcome to Smeerensburg” (#5) is wildly successful in giving the gloomy grey and unsightly appearance of a town, which can only send a shiver down the spine.
Jesper visits every house of Smeerenburg in order to bring the culture of correspondence to the residents of the town and fulfill his role as a postman. He will go everywhere, up until the most northerly part of the island, in a forest. There is the house of a woodsman who lives all by himself. In the track “Heading North” (#7) lies the psychological makeup of Jesper as he is traveling towards the woodsman’s house. He is heading for the unknown, he does not know what he will face there and the best musical expression of the unknown is no other than the mystery. The woodsman named Klaus is not at home and Jesper finds it deserted. The dark rooms in which he wanders have a musical background that causes anxiety and fear. The music in “The Woodman” (#8) seeks to convince us that the owner of the house is mean and vicious. This particular scene was the first one for which the composer Alfonso G. Aguilar wrote the music. The large body shape of the woodsman Klaus also contributes to his terrifying status, as the viewer will find out when he will make his appearance. And here the music prepares the viewer for something that will happen later, outlining a certain musical personality for Klaus, without this being real though. It intentionally deceives the viewer, in order for the element of surprise to subsequently arise, overturning the impression that the music created.
Jesper will need plenty of time in order to stop being terrified of Klaus and even more in order to be able to convince him to mail all the toys he has in his house, which he made on his own. In a weird, almost supernatural way, the letter of a girl who seems to be unhappy will get in the way of Klaus. The wind brought it at his feet, but what if it wasn’t a coincidence? What if an invisible entity made sure of that? By seeing and feeling the wind in the snowy forest, in a mysterious way, Klaus does not feel lonely.
At 00:37 of “The First Letter” (#9), a special and distinctive sound appears, which could seem like the sound of some bird in the forest, that we hear for the first time in the soundtrack. It is an ancient musical instrument called ocarina, which performs a specific motif. The gentle and tender sound of the ocarina is ideal to highlight an airy presence that has no substance, but exists without a doubt in the forest and Klaus feels it. An invisible entity that aspires to heal the pain that perches in the soul of Klaus because of its loss and pushes him to send a gift to the unhappy girl, in order to bring back the joy to his soul. The presence of the ocarina denotes the spiritual presence of the partner of Klaus in the forest, who was named Lydia and is no longer alive. But how do we reach this conclusion? The answer lies in the music that follows.
There will be a similar suspicion of Lydia’s spiritual existence through the ocarina at 00:12 of “Silhouette” (#22), when, once again with the wind’s help, she will lead Klaus to the threshold of his laboratory where he used to make the toys. The objective is to run it again making new toys. However, here as well, it is just a suspicion, a speculation, not a certainty that the ocarina’s musical print refers to Lydia, who may be absent as a substance but present as a spirit in the woods. The confirmation comes in the third appearance of the ocarina. When Klaus narrates his life with Lydia to Jesper, then the ocarina returns to seal without any doubt the identification of the instrument with her, as her musical signature, at 00:17 of “The Young Klaus and Lydia” (#24). The musical identity of Lydia is an excellent example for someone to notice how important the function of the music is in a movie.
When we hear for the second time the ocarina’s sound while we are watching the movie, it is very likely to remember that we have heard it before. And maybe to remember exactly where we heard it before. So, automatically, without realizing it, we make the first association. When we hear the ocarina for the third time and we find out that it refers to Lydia, it is reasonable to think that when we met this instrument in the musical narration earlier, Lydia was present then as well, in her own special spiritual way. Only the music can perform such miracles, revealing what the pictures cannot reveal. As long as the composer has the talent to use it like that and the director is smart enough to let him express his musical instinct.
Jesper and Klaus deliver the first toy to a girl and become witnesses of a joy that cannot be described. While Klaus is enjoying the look of the little girl playing, we hear a familiar motif at the point 00:19 of “The Toy Frog” (#11), which we heard in the movie’s introduction, when Jesper was talking about a chubby gentleman in a red suit. The suspicion that there was then, is now confirmed. The delight that fills the little girl’s heart is expressed in musical terms with an exuberant performance of Klaus’ theme by the entire 86 member Synchron Stage Orchestra of Vienna, along with the 40 member choir.
After Klaus witnesses the little girl’s enthusiasm, he decides to give the same joy to other children, by handing out the rest of the gifts he has at his house. And then a miraculous change will happen. A wave of kindness will be transmitted from the children to the grownups and everyone will start changing for the better. This happens because a selfless act of goodwill always gives birth to another. The track “Changes” (#19) describes this positive plot twist in the town of Smeerensburg, with music that has a soul full of kindness. As the track is playing, gradually, a joyous feeling is emerging, which, a little while after the middle, culminates in the appearance of the choir and the galloping energy of the orchestra. The scene of the kindness charge in Smeerensburg represents a turning point in the movie and particular emphasis should be placed on its music. It is no coincidence that the composer worked a lot on this scene, writing totally 43 versions of the track before concluding on the one that was finally used!
In a town where misery and evil prevailed, the leaders of the two warring clans sidestep the feud between them and become allies in order to sabotage Jesper and Klaus. They ambush them and the nightmarish appearance of the choir at the beginning of “Ambush” (#20) signals danger. The moments of suspenseful adventure that will follow will be appeased by a propitiatory performance of the theme of Klaus. In other words, the two heroes of the movie will come unscathed out of the ambush against them. Very soon there will be another attempt against them, with the town’s two clans chasing after them in order to destroy the Christmas gifts. In “Gifts Downhill” (#30), the adventure returns as the chase with the sleighs is in progress. A noteworthy musical moment is the brief dreamy involvement of the choir in a scene which is very emotional for the two characters that share it, and humorous at the same time from the viewers point of view, which takes place on the edge of a cliff at 01:38 of the above track. Nevertheless, Christmas arrives and the gifts that Klaus made are in all the houses of Smeerensburg. The track “A True Act of Good Will, Always Sparks Another” (#32) conveys a feeling of profound relief of Jesper and Klaus who managed to make the children of Smeerensburg happy. It is the musical print of their own happiness for achieving their goal, as well as of the children’s happiness.
The habit of preparing gifts at Christmas is continued by Klaus and Jesper over the next years as well, with greater zeal. Until one day, while cutting wood in the forest, Klaus receives a call. The appearance of the ocarina, for the last time actually, makes perfectly clear from whom the call is coming. His beloved Lydia is summoning him. Being old now, he will give up the earthly and will be left to the supernatural power of the wind that will bring him close to her. The performance of the theme of Klaus accompanied by choir at 01:40 of “I am Coming Love” (#33) will be the positive response of Klaus to Lydia’s call. And therefore, Klaus becomes the legend that lingers in the hearts of all of us.
The musical epilogue of the movie leaves the viewer a bittersweet taste. It is about the track “Once A Year, I Get to See My Friend” (#34), which is pervaded by the feeling of the loss of Klaus. As one would expect, his theme returns for a last time. You can hear an excellent presentation of the most important parts of the soundtrack in the track “The Legend of Klaus (Suite)” (#1). Despite that you may think that this is just a presentation of the tracks as those were heard in the movie, you will be pleasantly surprised finding out that it is not about that. The composer took advantage of the track and gave a breath of fresh air to his music, giving an alternative presentation to the individual moments that he chose to include in the suite.
A wonderful soundtrack like the one of Alfonso G. Aguilar for the movie “Klaus” cannot be deprived of the people’s attention. Managing the movie’s wealth of sentiments, the composer gives us a notable and very interesting musical sample, which makes us look forward to the continuation in his career. The fact that the movie “Klaus” is an excellent film proposal for Christmas time – a proposal that seems destined to become a classic in the years to come – is to a great extent due to the composer Alfonso G. Aguilar. His music has something to say at its every moment. It wants to cause something to the viewer. It is the kind of music that the cinema needs, music that can mobilize our inner world.
01. The Legend of Klaus (Suite) (9:54)
02. A Story About Letters (1:38)
03. I’ve Got Someone Covering For Me (1:03)
04. Good Job! (0:17)
05. Welcome to Smeerensburg (1:42)
06. The Battle Bell (0:46)
07. Heading North (0:43)
08. The Woodman (1:34)
09. The First Letter (1:29)
10. Nice Breaking and Entering (0:26)
11. The Toy Frog (0:44)
12. That’s Totally Normal (1:35)
13. Wind (0:44)
14. Tradition (1:16)
15. The Awesome Klaus (1:08)
16. Rodeo (0:58)
17. Go Reindeer (0:28)
18. Don’t Mess With The Postman (0:18)
19. Changes (3:13)
20. Ambush (0:56)
21. Truce (1:10)
22. Silhouette (0:58)
23. Wait, Don’t Touch That (1:08)
24. The Young Klaus and Lydia (1:53)
25. Look What You’ve Done (2:20)
26. Klaus Family (0:58)
27. Jesper Unveiled (1:51)
28. Way Back Home (2:49)
29. A Nice Big Piñata (1:27)
30. Gifts Downhill (2:11)
31. Walk of Evil (0:43)
32. A True Act of Good Will, Always Sparks Another (2:18)
33. I’m Coming Love (2:17)
34. Once A Year, I Get To See My Friend (2:05)
35. Invisible (End Title from Klaus) – Performed by Zara Larsson (2:51)
Total Time: 58:08
The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters