Home > Reviews > FELICIA’S JOURNEY – Mychael Danna


November 12, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

feliciasjourneyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The mainstream musical development of Mychael Danna continues with his excellent, unusual score for Atom Egoyan’s drama Felicia’s Journey, starring Bob Hoskins and Elaine Cassidy. Based on the novel by William Trevor, Cassidy plays a young Irish woman – the Felicia of the title – who travels to Birmingham, England in the 1960s and encounters friendly catering manager Bob Hoskins, who offers her a room in his home. However, Hoskins is not all he appears to be, and soon Felicia finds herself at the mercy of an innocuous-looking monster, with no obvious means of escape.

In the liner notes of Milan’s CD, director Egoyan likens Danna’s work to a combination of “Mantovani, Strauss and Bartók”, and it turns out to be a very apt description. Danna’s music adopts three styles, all of which converge in an attempt to capture the essence of the film’s central relationship. The dense, sweeping strings of ‘Titles’, ‘Savage Garden’ and ‘Heart Strings’ are more in the style of John Barry than anything in Danna’s past. Beautiful, innocent, and quite unexpected, they combine wonderfully with a smattering of traditional Gaelic songs (Coinleach Glas an Fhómhair, Tiocfaidh an Samhradh) to musically capture Felicia’s inner character, her good nature and her rural naïveté when alone in the big city. A clever pastiche of the cheesy 1950’s music hall sound is heard in ‘Cooking Show’, written to accompany the cameo by Egoyan regular Arsinée Khanjian as a TV housewife.

However, the beauty is tempered by moments of extreme dissonance and chaos, which often intentionally collides and juxtaposes with the string wash and Gaelic beauty, hinting at the terrible danger Felicia has unwittingly exposed herself to. Synthesized drones, grating cello chords, brittle snares and skewed perspectives can be found in cues such as ‘Lost In The City’, ‘Mother’, ‘Factory Drive’, and the terribly disorientating ‘Savage Garden’, ‘Message’ and ‘Pain Will Wash Away’, proving that Danna still does not flinch from aurally bombarding a listener with conflicting styles and mixed messages to achieve the maximum effect.

The two source music cues, syrupy crooned ballads by Malcolm Vaughan, are actually important additions to the album in the context of the plot, in that they are bland and totally dispensable bits of musical nonsense which inherit a terrible subtext when you comprehend their meaning and their relationship to the characters. The final cue features a chilling performance of “My Special Angel” by Bob Hoskins who, in an impeccable West Midlands accent, gives a quivering voice to the child molesters and potential rapists who supposedly soothe their intended victims with meaningless wordplay and terrifying implacability.

This score is a case of Danna once again broadening the spectrum of his music away from the ethnic, minimalist tones of his earlier works and embracing a lusher style which pleases audiences but still remains appropriate to the movie. Although there is still a fair amount of dissonance in Felicia’s Journey, it is extremely encouraging to see Danna continuing to increase his stature as a composer of music that is attractive and rates high in both intelligence and relevance.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • The Heart of a Child (written by Michael Austin and Derek Hudson, performed by Malcolm Vaughan) (2:00)
  • Titles (2:21)
  • Lost in the City (0:59)
  • Cooking Show (1:40)
  • History (2:38)
  • My Special Angel (written by Jimmy Duncan, performed by Malcolm Vaughan) (2:44)
  • Mother (1:34)
  • Factory Drive (0:50)
  • Savage Garden (4:00)
  • Message (7:17)
  • Heart Strings (3:46)
  • Lost Child (1:44)
  • Pain Will Wash Away (8:45)
  • Rest In Peace (3:26)
  • My Special Angel (written by Jimmy Duncan, performed by Bob Hoskins) (0:50)

Running Time: 44 minutes 50 seconds

Milan 73138-35896-2 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Mychael Danna. Performed by Kate Crossan, Mychael Danna, Ron Korb, Clare Scholtz, Ameene Shishakly, Bridget Hunt, Angelique Toews, Daniel Blackman and Kate Worthington. Recorded and mixed by Ron Searles. Mastered by Ramón Bretón. Album produced by Mychael Danna.

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