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L’ENNEMI INTIME – Alexandre Desplat

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most admirable things about Alexandre Desplat is the fact that, despite his new status as one of Hollywood’s golden composers, he still regularly works on French domestic pictures back home. One of these is L’Ennemi Intime, a bold and controversial political drama/war movie directed by regular Desplat collaborator Florent Emilio Siri. The film, which has been a convention-challenging commercial success in France, stars Benoît Magimel, Albert Dupontel and Aurélien Recoing, and follows the fortunes of a platoon of French soldiers on maneuvers in North Africa during the Algerian war of independence in the late 1950s, and is one of the few French films to examine the war in Algeria with a dispassionate realism and with no ulterior agenda.

As is always the case with Desplat’s scores, L’Ennemi Intime is fully orchestral, thematic and immediately engaging; however, unlike some of Desplat’s more popular Hollywood fare, this score has a profound seriousness and an overarching sense of tragedy and regret: a wholly appropriate tone to adopt, considering the solemn nature of the film itself. Strings dominate much of the score, as in cues such as the opening “L’Ennemi Intime”, the painfully emotional “Souvenirs” and in many ways is a reflection of the kind of music the late Georges Delerue used to write for films like this; think about Delerue’s rejected score for Platoon, or his music for Diên Biên Phù, and you’ll have an idea of what kind of score L’Ennemi Intime is.

Once in a while Desplat steps out of the box: “1959” has an unexpected soft-jazz shuffle with brushed snares, a lonely trumpet refrain, and slightly off-kilter thematic center, which is carried over into the stark, somewhat unsettling “Zone Interdite” and, later, “Fantômes”. Similarly, “Napalm” and “Attente” are soft pieces for strings, flutes and Gamelan gongs which somehow carry a sense of quiet desolation.

Interestingly, for a war movie, there is virtually no action music in the score – clearly an artistic choice by Siri and Desplat so as not to glamorize or trivialize the bitter colonial conflict. Instead, there is ratcheted tension in the shape of “Mission de Nuit” and “Opération de Police”, which creep insidiously under your skin, almost subliminally, and impart a sense of danger and nervousness. This is most certainly not a feel-good score, and anyone whose primary exposure to Desplat has been through his popular fantasy or romance scores may find themselves wondering just what on earth this score is all about: however, for those interested in exploring the darker side of Desplat, L’Ennemi Intime makes for fascinating listening.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • L’Ennemi Intime (3:30)
  • 1959 (2:11)
  • Zone Interdite (4:27)
  • Trahison (3:13)
  • Souvenirs (1:47)
  • Mission de Nuit (4:13)
  • Opération de Police (2:50)
  • Stèles (1:48)
  • Napalm (3:38)
  • Attente (1:14)
  • Fantômes (7:27)
  • Grenoble (1:57)
  • Taïda (4:10)
  • Exécution (3:41)
  • 1959 (Version Longue) (9:52)

Running Time: 55 minutes 58 seconds

Naive K-1629 (2007)

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