Music Composed by Rael Jones
Movie Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller
Movie & Soundtrack CD Release: 2015
Label: Sony Classical
Available also as a digital stream/download
“The music of Rael Jones transmutes every emotional condition imposed by the movie into the appropriate musical notes, making them its heartbeat, culminating in the last scene of the movie that breaks your heart. The soundtrack has been a blessing for the movie!”
The movie starts and the various logos that appear cannot give the viewer an indication of what is going to follow. However, the viewer is able to draw the first information about the movie he is about to watch, as long as he focuses on the musical stimuli he receives. A steady repeating sound is heard, unpleasant and threatening, which becomes increasingly perceptible and intense, which is easily translated into something evil that is getting closer and closer. Soon, the black-and-white footage will clarify the reason for this musical introduction. We are in Paris, 1940, where the Germans have invaded. The footage is brimming with war images, the music lacks, though, a purely military signature, a first interesting parameter in the soundtrack of the movie “Suite Française” (2015). The characteristic percussion and wind instruments, by which the militaristic identity of a music is usually defined, do not exist in the musical introduction. Is it because we have to do with a movie that is not a war movie with dramatic implications, but a drama in a war background? Food for thought. The music of the movie’s prologue is found in “Threat of Occupation” (#7). The annoying and persistent sound prevailing in the music creates tension and is the musical mark of the German advance, who continue marching on undeterred and are close to the area of Bussy in central France, where the movie’s characters that we will soon meet live.
Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) lives with her mother-in-law, Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas), while Lucile’s husband is fighting the Germans and his exact location is unknown. When her mother-in-law leaves the house for a while, then Lucile finds the chance to play the piano she loves so much, which serves as a kind of consolation for the endless anticipation of the war news. The music she performs at the piano has little importance. A tender music that accompanies her narrative. What does have importance in this scene, is the piano itself, its presence in the house and its subsequent part in the plot and in the shaping of the soundtrack the movie will get, which is composed by Rael Jones.
Lucile and her mother-in-law leave by car for their monthly rent collection. On their way, they will meet hundreds of people, who left Paris in order to escape the German occupiers. The music of “Bleed You Dry” (#8) splendidly reflects both the psychic condition of the people who were uprooted from their homes, and the reason for which this happened. The strings of the orchestra undertake the mission to express both the emotional conditions. The advance of the Germans is expressed in the music by their abrupt performance which denotes that something bad is spreading, once again without a militaristic mood, and the pain of the uprooted Parisians is depicted through a sad theme, which is expanded during the track, until it is performed in its full form and in the most emphatic way, from the point 02:46 of the above track. The same theme will return later, depicting the daily life of the occupied residents of Bussy, in “Getting Used to it” (#11). When the time comes that the German airplanes bomb the crowd of the Parisian refugees in the countryside, then the music will wisely hush, as the explosions have a more deafening and shocking impact than any music.
The town of Bussy, where Lucile lives with her mother-in-law, is in turmoil, with its residents being in panic. Some of them choose to leave. There is a beautiful scene, where one can admire the delicate musical interventions of the composer Rael Jones, by focusing on a musical detail that was omitted in the soundtrack that was released. But when composing a film score, even the slightest detail has a significant role and it may draw the attention of the experienced viewer or listener. Such musical details, like the one following, give more material to the experienced ear so that it appreciates and admires the skills of a composer like Rael Jones. The sudden sound of an airplane that appears out of nowhere, frightens everyone. They move in panic and instinctively crouch down in order to protect themselves, believing that this is a bombing. They will soon be confuted, since flyers of the Germans were dropped from the airplane, with a message for the residents of Bussy. The sight of the flyers falling from the sky is accompanied by a soft and tender piano that gives a few dreamy seconds to the scene, easing the residents’ terror that preceded. But when the viewer sees from whom these are coming and their content, then the music will turn the dreamy feel into a nightmare, with the violins becoming chilling and frightening. In fact, even before the viewer finds out the message written on the flyers, from the moment that Madame Angellier starts reading one of them, the music will reveal a bit earlier the sender of the message and its content: “trust the German soldiers”. This scene could have no music, its presence, though, emphasized the scene’s emotional swings, it made them more clear, more perceivable, it highlighted them. It did what music always does in a scene when it is good, it improves what reaches the viewer.
The way in which the music and the sound in general are used in the narrative flow of a movie, can be a very useful tool in the hands of the director and the composer. Take as an example the scene of the church where Lucile and Madame Angellier are. While we are hearing the reverend’s voice, at some point we start distinguishing the sound produced by a tank in motion. Very soon, the sound of the synchronized marching of the German soldiers who have arrived in town is added to it, a sound that will be integrated in the music as an additional musical instrument, as heard at the beginning of “The Germans Arrive” (#10). The march of the soldiers and their distinctive sound, are accompanied by the more intense presence of the percussion this time, emphasizing the fact, in contrast to the previous musical references to the occupier, where the strings were prevailing.
The German officer Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is hosted under compulsion at the house of Madame Angellier, is fond of the piano that there is in his room and asks for the key in order to be able to use it. Before the war he was working as a composer. The same night, while Lucile is in her room, she will hear him playing for the first time. For her the piano was an escape allowing her to get away from the heavy atmosphere of the war. However, her mother-in-law had imposed its silence, by locking it, forbidding Lucile to play until the return of her son. The music that Bruno is playing are the first attempts of a composition he wants to write, recalling the time before the war. When the attempts mature, the final composition that will emerge, will be used as an act of noble gesture towards a person important to him.
Bruno and Lucile come closer, by enjoying a night with wine and dancing. The time they share will come to an inglorious end upon the return of Madame Angellier at home, who had given Lucile explicit orders not to talk with the German officer. The imprint that the night left on Lucile is depicted in the music with a new theme performed by a piano, in “Green Shoots” (#12). A pleasant night with a man after so much time, is expressed in music with an exquisite and delicate theme, which gives us, while we are listening to it, the impression that it narrates a special, precious, valuable story. It is the love theme of a romance which starts developing. However, it is impossible for someone not to notice the dark, cold violins throughout the track “Green Shoots” (#12), which are usually in the background and represent all the noes and the musts that get between the two young people. In the second half of the track, the performance of the love theme by a cello, as well as the performance of the music by the orchestra in general, will give a heavier dramatic atmosphere, obviously pessimistic.
The total sense deriving from the musical performance in the second half of the above track refers to an unpleasant development that is expected to affect negatively Lucile’s positive feelings for Bruno. The following part of the story will give the answer: Lucile will discover that her husband, for the news of whom she has been waiting with such an anxiety, had an affair with another woman as well before marrying her, with whom he also had a child. She will find out the unpleasant news by reading one of the complaint letters that she found on Bruno’s desk, in his room. Lucile will be outraged against him, as well as against her mother-in-law, since both of them kept it a secret. Later, in an effort to ease her pain, Bruno will play for her at the piano a piece of music that she will find very beautiful. It is the composition that is completed, after the attempts that preceded, and is found in “Bruno’s Theme” (#14), which is a composition of Alexandre Desplat.
Their first kiss will be later given under the sounds of the violins performing their love theme, at the beginning of “Sunlit Kiss” (#15). Subsequently, when they give in to their bodily urges, the unexpected presence of third people in the house, will not give them the opportunity to proceed to the sexual act. The music accompanying the attempt at their sexual intercourse, from 01:40 of the above track is indicative of its non-completion. The hesitant presentation of the love theme, in a musical atmosphere of chilliness and awkwardness, perfectly matches the images, where the sexual passion is about to be born, but unfortunately, after all, the circumstances do not allow it to develop.
And while Lucile is preparing Bruno a romantic dinner, he is leading a search party of soldiers who are looking for the Frenchman who killed a German officer. After a request of the wife of her French compatriot, Lucile will search for him in order to offer him help. The suspenseful search at night in the forest, is taking place under the music of “Running Through the Woods” (#17), where an atmosphere of mystery and tension is captured, with the help of the strings and the percussion instruments of the orchestra. Suddenly, at 01:15 a piano performing the love theme of Lucile and Bruno appears. The other musical instruments of the orchestra muffle the piano, a musical condition in line with the determination of Lucile to resist the orders of the occupiers. The appearance of the love theme in this scene, even in piecemeal fashion, is not something that one would expect to hear, it is, though, an excellent idea that gives prominence to the psyche of the heroine and her inner concern, which obviously tends towards the rescue of her compatriot. Such an atmosphere is also found in the track “Raids” (#19), where the German soldiers conduct a door-to-door search in order to find the French fugitive. The musical atmosphere of the search is distinguished by its energy and suspense, with brief appearances of the love theme of Lucile and Bruno.
When Lucile asks Bruno for a travel permit to go to Paris, then he will declare his love for her. This time their love theme is clearly heard as they are talking, without asterisks and innuendos from other instruments of the orchestra. It appears in “Precious to Me” (#20). Bruno gets his transfer and leaves the house of Madame Angellier. Lucile enters his empty room and notices on the piano a sheet music named “Suite Française”. It is Bruno’s goodbye gift that she is tempted to perform. So, we hear once more the track “Bruno’s Theme” (#14). With the travel permit in her hands, Lucile leaves for Paris with the French fugitive in the car trunk. At the first check point things get out of control. The two German soldiers get killed, the Frenchman gets injured and lies down on the road. Then, a motorcycle with a German officer approaches the point, with Lucile brandishing a gun. Afterwards, comes the most beautiful scene of the movie, due mainly to its amazing musical background! The German approaching is Bruno, who sees what has happened and remains silent, looking at Lucile, who is tearfully pointing her gun at him. The absolute, torturous silence falling between them, without the presence of music, is more deafening than the most deafening music one can imagine! The viewer is anxiously waiting for the music to start playing, so that he can draw some information out of it about the outcome of the situation. Bruno’s dilemma is obvious.
After the riveting suspense of the silence and their staring at each other, the music will only start after Bruno speaks and expresses his intentions, namely to offer his help to Lucile, so that they carry the injured Frenchman in the car. Then, the track “I am Free” (#6) begins, which is the best track of the soundtrack. Their love theme, which is performed by piano and violins, is heard for the last time, in its most extended version, more magical, more beautiful and more dramatic than ever. It is the words they do not say and the kisses they do not give. It is their silences. Because no dialogues are needed when there is such a wonderful and powerful music. An amazing scene that ends up being such, primarily because of its music. Musical perfection is the suitable phrase for this scene! Rael Jones composes a musical theme of remarkable dramatic intensity, bittersweet and sad, like implying that the love with which music is dealing, will never be able to mature. The theme of the unfulfilled love, written by Rael Jones, could not be better, more fitting and more functional in the movie, wherever we heard it. The composer should only feel proud of a theme that cannot easily be forgotten, of a theme that is not just another beautiful love theme. It is a love theme that masterfully gives prominence to a romance that has no future, has only past, a love theme with a powerful narrative force, especially if you hear it in its extended form.
The soundtrack of the movie “Suite Française” consists of two musical worlds: of the German occupiers and of the occupied French. Additional to and above these two worlds, are the two central characters of the movie, Lucile and Bruno, whose love transcends everything, even in music. The music of the occupiers may not be of a military nature, as one would perhaps expect, but is distinguished by its cold identity, music of imposition and domination, by deploying mainly the string musical instruments of the orchestra. If you are not aware of where the music that refers to the Nazi occupiers is coming from, then you can hardly realize to what or whom it refers. The music of the occupied ones refers to a theme that reflects the pain and the hardship they experience, in which the string instruments are again deployed. And there is also the piano, which connects Lucile and Bruno. On the one hand there is the theme that Bruno performs at the piano, which acts as a souvenir of him that Lucile will have forever, and of course there is their love theme, in which the piano plays a leading part. The music of Rael Jones transmutes every emotional condition imposed by the movie into the appropriate musical notes, making them its heartbeat, culminating in the last scene of the movie that breaks your heart. The soundtrack written by Rael Jones has been a blessing for the movie, and the music of cinema nowadays needs more than ever musical compositions that will breathe life into the images and make them take off. We look forward to more musical achievements by Rael Jones in the future, as long as the directors of the small or the big screen look towards the direction where there is a surplus of talent.
01. Musik Musik Musik by Otto Stenzel Tanzorchester (2:51)
02. Parlez-moi d’Amour by Lucienne Boyer (2:55)
03. Das ist Berlin by Oskar Joost Orchestra (2:59)
04. De Temps En Temps by Josephine Baker (3:21)
05. Bell Ami by Rosita Serrano (3:28)
06. I am Free (4:55)
07. Threat of Occupation (1:48)
08. Bleed You Dry (3:38)
09. Like Tinnitus (3:43)
10. The Germans Arrive (2:21)
11. Getting Used to It (1:57)
12. Green Shoots (1:26)
13. Enemies Forever (3:08)
14. Bruno’s Theme (0:56) – Composed by Alexandre Desplat
15. Sunlit Kiss (3:41)
16. Slanderous Letters (2:50)
17. Running Through Woods (1:52)
18. They Come for Benoit (2:54)
19. Raids (5:57)
20. Precious to Me (1:49)
Total Time: 43:04 (score only)
Tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters
Score Rating: * * * *