Film Score Friday: ‘W.E.’ By Abel Korzeniowski

W.E. is the last of our Golden Globe nominated scores, perfect timing as the show airs this Sunday, and by far the most unexpected. In fact before this nomination I didn’t even know this movie existed. The film is actually directed by Madonna, which is interesting but not all together important for a review of it’s score.

The composer is Abel Korzeniowski and I can see why his excellent work was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press. The score is very well put together with an emphasis on large, sweeping strings in a few very choice places. Listening to the music gives me the sense that it probably dominates much of the movie. While I appreciate that sort of heavy handed musical touch, I can also see where it might have played a role in the films less than stellar critical reception.

I am happy to see it nominated though, as there has been a recent trend of nominating more subtle and subdued scores in the last few years. This is far from it, and it plays very nicely to my personal film musical tastes. Strong string work always has a tendency to grip me, and this score delivers that in spades.

Korzeniowski has had a couple forays into Hollywood film composing, with his most known work being for A Single Man, an awards favorite from a few years back. If W.E. is any indication, the Polish composer is likely going to have a chance to break out here state side. He has shown good improvement and delivered a fine score to a film few had on their radar.

As I mentioned before, this score has beautiful string work. You get it right away on the soundtrack and it doesn’t let you go. Interestingly, this score might actually play the best as a stand alone listening experience compared to the other nominated scores. Not an altogether meaningful accolade for the quality of the music, but as a reviewer and fan I appreciate that what I head played very well together from one track to the next, and never really felt stale or repetitive.

Of course that is to say, the good tracks never felt stale or repetitive. There were a couple dud tracks on this soundtrack, tracks that might be technically good, but just failed to grab me. Many of those were either shorter tracks that fooled me into thinking it was the intro to something grand, or were tracks dominated by piano.

I don’t want to harp to hard on the piano, because one of my favorite tracks starts as a lonely piano and evolves into a really nice string and piano piece, but some times the strings mixed with the piano can send the whole track into a very schmaltzy area, and it becomes less beautiful and more sappy.

Three Favorite Tracks:

Six Hours by Abel Korzeniowski – I have noticed a pattern, many of my favorite scores this year started out strong with a brilliant first track. W.E. is no exception, the opening track just grabbed me instantly. Strong, but not overbearing and just down right pretty, the music in this first track really grabbed my attention. I didn’t know what to expect, and as a result I was borderline shocked at how good the track was. Even though it was nominated I was dubious to it’s quality knowing the HFPA’s history of “interesting” nominations. I was very pleasently surprised and this track quickly became one of my favorites.

Abdication by Abel Korzeniowski – This was the one track that starts dominated by a simple piano, and grows into a really great piece with strings. I really connect with music that grows mid track into something bigger and more grand. I find myself being swept away while it plays. One of my favorite peices of music on the soundtrack to be sure. I also really like the moment it breaks into a full orchestra. It just continues to build on itself until you are left with a glorious piece of music.

Evgeni Runs by Abel Korzeniowski – This piece is another one of those building on top of itself kind of tracks, although it is far shorter and less grand. What I like so much about this track is that it starts in such a deep rhythmic place and it ends on the other end of the spectrum with faint little twinkles. I am not typically one who goes for the shorter tracks, I like to really enjoy the music for a longer period of time, but this track had an undeniable quality that I had to give props to.

Least Favorite Track:

Masterpiece by Madonna – Yeah, this song was nominated for a golden globe all by itself for best song. Now you understand why I was dubious to the choices of the HFPA? This song is so, wrong compared to the really beautiful score that this movie was sporting. It is the kind of simplistic and under cooked song that gives people ammunition to hate songs from films. I think original songs can be a powerful asset to any score, but when you have a director who is a pop star you are bound to get her fingers prying into the music. Thankfully it seems that she funneled all her dumb ideas for good music into this track, leaving the score itself pretty much in tact as a really good score.

At the end of the day, W.E. is a very solid score by a composer I hope to hear a lot from in the near future. Despite the rancid Madonna song at the end, the music does a wonderful job of gripping me. This is probably not going to follow up it’s Golden Globe nod with an Oscar nomination, but I am thrilled to have discovered it while it basks in some spotlight here in the states.

Final Score for W.E.

4 out of 5

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