Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has created a captivating film soundtrack based on the inspirational life story of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. The movie, Oscar tipped due to Eddie Redmayne’s incredible central performance, focuses on Hawking’s education, romance and marriage to Jane, and his subsequent brilliant career.
Jóhannsson, who also scored the fantastic Prisoners, has previously worked with artists as diverse as drone metallurgists Sunn O))) and avant-garde composer Andrew M. McKenzie, which gives an indication of the fearlessness and sensitivity in his craft. It’s the latter talent that’s put to use here. The music accurately describes the tension between personal passions and the robust rationality of Hawking’s ideas as a physicist, defining the film’s fluctuating tonal arcs.
This tautness is mirrored by a four-note ostinato that expands, and contracts, unfurling through the piece. A soundtrack is primarily engineered to act as a visual enhancement, and this achieves that goal eloquently. Effortlessly seguing between ecstatic positivity, heartfelt sentimentality and the desperate darkness of encroaching illness, each successive mood is encapsulated perfectly in a miniature narrative.
This music has been approached emotionally rather than theoretically, in direct contrast to the film’s subject – it chooses to focus on the transcendence of love. A stirring accomplishment.
Words: Anna Wilson
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