When it came to scoring the story of an unhappy, well-to-do divorced woman, who experiences her regret through her ex-husband’s cathartic tome of fiction in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, Polish-born composer Abel Korzeniowski decided to filter the music through the eyes of Amy Adams’ Susan Morrow.
Based on Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the flashbacks in Nocturnal Animals are nail-biting as we watch Jake Gyllenhaal’s doppelganger Tony Hastings driven off the highway by savage hicks, then watch as his wife and teenage daughter are snatched up to a tragic fate.
Korzeniowski delivers a lush, sweeping string score; one of the more classical scores of the year. And when layered on top of Ford’s gritty thriller, it easily brings to mind the aural, cinematic, operatic sounds of Angelo Badalamenti’s work with David Lynch on titles like Blue Velvet, and of course, Bernard Herrmann’s piercing strings on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Much like those reference points, the composer says, “The sense is to have the music indicate that something is coming, like a Hitchcock moment, without making it cartoonish and going too far.”
The opening theme, “Wayward Sisters,” establishes Susan’s steely L.A. art sphere. We hear her happiness on the surface while she’s at her art show, but at home in her concrete domicile, we begin to hear her unhappiness, and descent into self-loathing as she reads the book by her ex, Edward Sheffield (also Gyllenhaal). As we cut to the tragic scenes on the desert road, it’s not a western guitar string tune we hear, but the nervous sound of a buzzing violin-infused 70-piece orchestra, underplayed by a haunting rhythmic cello.
In regards to maintaining the music’s classic style between both worlds in Nocturnal Animals, Korzeniowski explains, “The film isn’t an objective story, but it’s filtered through Susan’s imagination and emotions.”