Composer’s craft

Cracks, dir. Jordan Scott, comp. Javier Navarrete

  • Cracks, dir. Jordan ScottAlthough Spanish composer Javier Navarrete has richer and richer filmography, his name is still recognized only as the name of the creator of music for Guillermo del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth. Impressive as the film itself, the score of Pan’s Labyrinth has reached broad public and critics – so much that the composer’s musical language was immediately recognized in film Cracks by Jordan Scott. This film also relies on darkness among innocent characters and leads directly into tragedy. But director’s message is that the tragedy is not final, because every evil brings some good along.

    Composer has carefully put in the film score director’s thoughts about girls’ convict. But composer’s thoughts were somewhat different: music, which fills the film to the top and which, in its own way (especially by insisting on valse-rhythm) tries to show brighter and darker side of the story, leads its own life. While director’s eyes see the tragedy from the beginning, composer doesn’t. In this way, Navarrete’s music becomes autonomous, self devoted narrator of film events.

    Cracks, dir. Jordan ScottThis shows why the score is so special and why it bears the quality of its own. Except its specific relationship to film’s story, there are also specific musical characteristics. Firstly, we discover continuous round flow of music which reminds on movement of parts in Philip Glass’, Alexander Desplat’s and Eric Satie’s scores. Secondly, there are very interesting musical colors (which are also typical for Navarrete’s role models).

    The score is mostly composed for piano which is occasionally treated as a leading instrument and occasionally as an instrument which is part of the small orchestra. Also, among orchestral colors composer uses solos of wind instruments in the beginning, but towards the middle of the film he starts to play with colors of strings, too. Namely, violoncello often becomes bearer of melody, and this melody is often intertwined with melodies of other string instruments. As the result there are rich contrapuntal relationships among orchestral parts where violoncello plays with piano, and together they play with the whole string section of the orchestra. And this is only one among many of composer’s ideas (one other is the music for the midnight party where, with little help of accordion, music changes its style and starts to bear folk-like characteristics, while the other is fantastic intertwining of music as one part, and narration, that is reading of the letter at the end of the film, as the second musical part).

    Cracks, dir. Jordan ScottNavarrete’s harmonies are prolongation of his way of coloring the score. Harmonies are (as in the most film music) commonly diatonic, but there is always a little twist, and another one, and another one – so that in the existing diatonic chords there are always pleasant surprises for musically trained ear. These little twists continue in the melody. It is, in fact, hard to define themes which could be whistled on the way home. This is the result of themes’ structures, which are made from detail to detail, and where some elements (motives) become more important than themes and melodies which could be sung.

    All that, as the fitting nondiegetic music in the row of diegetically existing music (as are: the girls’ choir from the beginning of the movie, little string ensemble which tries to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony just before princess Fiamma arrives, and many songs from thirties which are there as encouragement to Miss. G’s swimming team) tells a lot about composer’s craft. On the other hand, handling the relationship music-silence (film is filled with music, but in the key moments, where playful girls’ lives are turned towards rough reality, there is no music) tells about great relationship between director and composer. At the end, I think, there are lots of things to speak in favor of music and in favor of film itself, and that is, I hope, good recommendation for watching and listening at the same time.

    © Irena Paulus,, 15 November 2010