Home > Reviews > THE CRYING GAME – Anne Dudley



Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most critically successful and controversial films of 1992 was The Crying Game, a political thriller from Irish writer-director Neil Jordan. The first half of the story explores the relationship between Fergus, a member of the IRA Irish Republican Army, and Jody, a British soldier, who is kidnapped and held for ransom, and will be murdered unless an IRA prisoner is released. Fergus and Jody unexpectedly bond during his captivity, and when it becomes apparent that Jody is to be killed, he makes Fergus promise to look after his girlfriend, Dil, who lives in London. The second half of the story then follows Fergus in London, who tracks down Dil, and forms a bond which quickly becomes romantic; however, Dil has a shocking secret, the revelation of which was one of the most-talked about cinematic moments of the year, and the fallout of this revelation – as well as Fergus’s IRA past coming back to haunt him – has terrible consequences for all. The film stars Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, and Miranda Richardson, and marked the screen debut of Jaye Davidson as Dil, who earned an Oscar nomination in a breakout role.

The score for The Crying Game is by English composer Anne Dudley, and was her breakthrough into mainstream cinema. Dudley had been an acclaimed musician, arranger, and pop artist for many years in the UK – she was a string arranger for everyone from ABC and the Pet Shop Boys to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Seal, Marc Almond, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Debbie Harry, and so many more. She was also a founder member of the progressive synthpop group Art of Noise alongside pioneering producer Trevor Horn, and enjoyed major chart hits in the UK with songs such as “Close,” a cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” and my personal favorite, the brilliant and psychedelic “Paranoimia” in 1986. Dudley dabbled in film and television music in the late 1980s and early 1990s, writing music for the Phil Collins vehicle Buster in 1988, the cult romantic comedy Say Anything in 1989, and the TV adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in 1990, but The Crying Game was her breakthrough piece of ‘serious scoring,’ and within five years she would become the second woman to win a Best Score Oscar, for The Full Monty, in 1997.

The score is highly classical, performed mostly by the Pro Arte Orchestra of London under Dudley’s baton, but with some subtle synth embellishments reflective of Dudley’s career in the pop world. Thematically the score is mostly built around two ideas – one love theme, and one ‘military theme’. The love theme isn’t really specifically about one particular pair, but more about the different aspects and concepts of love that run through the film: the initial romantic relationship between Jody and Dil, the unexpected bond that develops between Fergus and Jody, and then the relationship between Fergus and Dil in the second half of the film. It’s an interesting choice that Dudley chose to use the same music for all of them, perhaps providing some subtle commentary about how, in the end, it’s the nature of the relationship that matters, rather than who is in it.

The Military Theme deals directly with the more serious and political aspect of the film; Fergus’s membership in the IRA, the sometimes antagonistic relationship between himself and his paramilitary cohorts Jude and Maguire, and the various scenes of drama, tension, and action this encompasses. This aspect of the score is pretty straightforward from a compositional point of view, usually comprising percussive rhythms from both drums and pianos, and often including a solo horn or trumpet performing a stark three-note motif. There’s nothing especially innovative going on here, but it makes for a nice counterpoint to the love theme, and reminds the listener that in many of the scenes there are genuine life-and-death stakes in play.

The opening cue, “The Soldier’s Wife,” begins with the Military Theme for strings, snares, and solo trumpet, but then becomes more elegant and romantic in its second half as the Love Theme takes over. The Love Theme then dominates “It’s In My Nature,” but in a generally more low-key manner, serious and dramatic, as it accompanies the various philosophical conversations Fergus and Jody share during the latter’s captivity by the IRA, and the tragic pathos in their friendship that comes from the fact that both of them know that it is quite likely that one will have to kill the other. The subsequent “March to the Execution” is the intense conclusion to that relationship, and contains variations on the Military Theme performed by a bank of surging strings, underpinned with stark piano chords, rat-a-tat snares, and a lonely solo trumpet; it all gradually builds to a nail-biting climax, and then explodes with a vivid final chord.

“I’m Thinking of You” returns to the Love Theme in a slow, elegant, intimate manner, this time with more prominent synth sweetening and a little more emphasis on solo horns. “Dies Irae” is dramatic and operatic, as the title suggests, a powerful string elegy. “The Transformation “ is the longest cue on the album and is full of shifting drama and moments of revelation, all leading up to the moment where Dil – thirty year spoiler alert! – reveals herself to be transgender, and in doing so shatters Fergus’s preconceptions about love, masculinity, and his own sexuality. It was bold and shocking for 1992, and retains its power even today. Dudley scores the abrupt changes in Fergus’s emotions – from affection and sexual desire to shock and horror, and then acceptance and determination – with increasingly intense statements of the Love Theme, with its rhapsodic interplay between strings and pianos, trumpet accents, nervous ticking percussion, eerie synth washes, and flashback references to the rat-a-tat snares that accompanied Jody’s death. It’s really good.

“The Assassination” is the score’s main action sequence, and underscores the scene where Miranda Richardson’s character Jude tries to assassinate a high ranking British political figure, only for it all to backfire badly. Dudley scores the sequence with brooding orchestral lines, incessant percussion rhythms, synth textures, stark piano chords, and more thematic references to the Military Theme. The ending is stark, shrill, and harsh, and anyone who knows the film will understand why. The conclusive “The Soldier’s Tale” is rich and dark, and begins with a menacing return to the dynamism of the Military Theme, but it quickly becomes more elegiac and emotional as it develops, switching from brass to strings. The score finishes with a final return to the soft, gentle Love Theme, which is given a new, reflective dimension due to the addition of subtle harp glissandi behind the strings – offering perhaps some sort of catharsis and the hope that Fergus and Dil can find some peace and redemption.

The soundtrack album, which was released by Polydor in the UK and by SBK Records in the United States, is a combination of Dudley’s score, original songs, period classics, and cover versions, many of which were produced by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys. The title track, “The Crying Game,” was originally released by English rock singer Dave Berry in 1964, and was covered here by gender-fluid pop star Boy George, and became his biggest hit as a solo artist. Tennant and Lowe also produced the song “Live For Today” performed by their protégé Cicero, and there are excellent renditions of Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” – ironic in context – and “White Cliffs of Dover,” as well as a Lyle Lovett cover of the Tammy Wynette country classic “Stand By Your Man,” which plays over the film’s end credits. It’s a really good selection of songs, with some deeper hidden meanings for those in the know.

Considering that The Crying Game was a critical hit and an awards season darling in 1992 it’s surprising that Anne Dudley wasn’t really in the Best Score Oscar race that year, such is the in-context excellence of her work. However, despite its lack of recognition from awards bodies, The Crying Game is an important landmark in Anne Dudley’s career; its success would essentially result in her mostly permanent switch from pop music to film music, eventually resulting in her Oscar win in 1997. Anyone who is still salty about The Full Monty depriving Danny Elfman and/or James Newton Howard and/or David Newman of their chance at Academy glory would do well to listen to The Crying Game to get a proper grasp of what Anne Dudley is really about. Not only does it firmly establish and confirm her film music credentials, it’s an excellent dramatic score in its own right.

Buy the Crying Game soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Crying Game (written by Geoff Stephens, performed by Boy George) (3:22)
  • When A Man Loves A Woman (written by Cameron Lewis and Andrew Wright, performed by Percy Sledge) (2:51)
  • Live For Today [Orchestral] (written by David Cicero, Neil Tennant, and Chris Lowe, performed by Cicero & Sylvia Mason-James) (4:04)
  • Let The Music Play (written by Chris Barbosa and Edward Chisolm, performed by Carroll Thompson) (6:43)
  • White Cliffs of Dover (written by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, performed by The Blue Jays) (2:53)
  • Live For Today [Gospel] (written by David Cicero, Neil Tennant, and Chris Lowe, performed by Cicero & Sylvia Mason-James) (2:47)
  • The Crying Game (written by Geoff Stephens, performed by Dave Berry) (2:42)
  • Stand By Your Man (written by Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill, performed by Lyle Lovett) (2:44)
  • The Soldier’s Wife (2:05)
  • It’s In My Nature (2:25)
  • March to the Execution (1:57)
  • I’m Thinking of You (1:45)
  • Dies Irae (0:52)
  • The Transformation (4:52)
  • The Assassination (4:03)
  • The Soldier’s Tale (2:45)

Running Time: 48 minutes 50 seconds

SBK Records CDP-589024 (1992)

Music composed and conducted by Anne Dudley. Performed by The Pro Arte Orchestra of London. Orchestrations by Anne Dudley. Recorded and mixed by Roger Dudley. Album produced by Anne Dudley, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

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