AwardsLine deputy editor Anna Lisa Raya contributed to this story.
Alexandre Desplat, the man behind the music of Best Picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, is also the talent behind the musical score for Best Picture nominee Philomena. His Oscar-nominated score, melancholy but also incredibly wishful, walks a razor-thin line between the two and works beautifully with a sparkle of hope punctuated with a recurring delicate ding of a percussion instrument, the triangle. The music never dominates a scene, and by making that decision, Desplat gives the story and the actors the respect they deserve. The composer is a master at his craft; he began playing piano at age 5 and later learned other instruments such as the trumpet and flute. With the music of Philomena, Desplat mirrored the emotions of the character — an elderly mother who is haunted by the fact that her son was taken away from her when she was a young woman. She has a fervent hope that she will locate her little boy, now a grown man – but always her little boy – one day.
Judi Dench is nominated for Best Actress this year for her portrayal of Philomena Lee in The Weinstein Company pic directed by Stephen Frears. The actress, who has had a long career in theater, speaks through her eyes as much as in dialogue with her co-star Steve Coogan (who is nominated with Jeff Pope for Best Adapted screenplay). Carrying a deep grief and longing, the mother’s emotions break through her stoicism, giving audiences a peak into her troubled heart. Philomena feels the weight of sin of getting pregnant so young and having an illegitimate baby. With one bow of her head or glance away to hide her tears, Dench has captured the soul of the brave and persistent woman.
“She gives so much doing nothing that the music has to respect that,” said Desplat. “If [the music] plays, it has to be so subtle. And yes, all her life is about this thing that was considered a sin, and it ruined her life. So yes, the music, to me, should reflect that — but in a tender way because her forgiveness, her humanity, is above any of the hard times she’s been through. She forgives, she loves people. Funnily enough, I met the real Philomena, and I could feel that, too.” His score, he says, is trying to guide the audience “to open windows, emphasize things that you might feel even more, and sometimes just pull back, leave the actors alone and respect the dialogue. Respect.” Here is Desplat’s Oscar-nominated score: