Home > Reviews > Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 4C

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 4C

January 20, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

Life has returned to world cinema in 2022 following the easing of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and at the end of the fourth quarter of the year I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest instalment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers five scores for projects from Scandinavia and adjacent countries in eastern Europe, and includes a Polish comedy drama set in Denmark, a Norwegian animated film based on a classic children’s book, a Finnish super-hero film for children, a Norwegian WWII action film, and a gorgeous romantic score for a Finnish film set in the wilds of Ireland.

 

FOLK OG RØVERE I KARDEMOMME BY – Gaute Storaas

Folk Og Røvere I Kardemomme By (When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town) is one of the most important works in Norwegian children’s literature. It was written in 1955 by Thorbjørn Egner and tells the story of Kardemommeby, a peaceful town, the idyllic existence of which is threatened by three robbers – Casper, Jasper, and Jonathan – who live outside the town but regularly enter to steal the things they need. This new animated film based on the story is directed by Rasmus A. Sivertsen and has a score by the great Norwegian composer Gaute Storaas. I’ve been a fan of Storaas for many years now, especially of things like Birkebeinerne, Dyrene i Hakkebakkeskogen, Halvdan Viking, and Tre Nøtter Til Askepott, and this new score happily joins that list.

Folk Og Røvere I Kardemomme By is a playful, pretty, charming, wholesome orchestral score, performed by the Kristiansand Symfoniorkester. It’s full of themes and moments of adventurous hi-jinks, tempered by more delicate moments of warmth and romantic emotion. Numerous cues stand out; “Camomilla” is a lovely, warm theme piece for lilting strings, and subsequent cues like “Hushjelp Søkes,” the warmly nostalgic “Godnatt,” the upbeat “Morgen I Røverhuset,” the tenderly evocative “Ny Dag,” the poignant “Dommen,” and “Løvemat” revisit this style.

There’s a mock-sinister, mischievous woodwind theme for the robbers themselves that first appears in “Røvere Pa Bytur” and then returns later prominently in “Sultne Røvere” and “Borgervernet,” among others. Storaas allow his jazz credentials to emerge in toe-tapping caper cues such “Trikketyver,” “Trikkemysteriet,” and “Innbrudd,” some of which grow to larger proportions and have a hint of classic Mission: Impossible to them, while cues like “Blomsterplukking,” “Fanget,” “Til Unnsetning” and the heroic “Fangenes Brannkorps” are unexpectedly exciting action sequences, with the latter being my favorite cue on the album.

There are also a half dozen or so comic cues that adopt a more broad mickey-mousey sound, and this is perhaps the score’s only drawback – some of these cues are rather childish, and some of their cue lengths are rather short and piecemeal, rarely running for more than a minute or so, and changing style rapidly from cue to cue. I do like the pompous brass fanfares at the end of “Krisestemning” and the scampering pizzicato runs in “Tilbakerøving,” though.

I should also note that I’m not familiar enough with the music for the widely disliked 1988 film that first told this story on the big screen and had music by Thorbjørn Egner himself to know whether Storaas intentionally references it in this new version, but the Norwegians who saw it will likely recognize whatever thematic allusions Storaas makes.

The score for Folk Og Røvere I Kardemomme By is available as a digital download on the Barneselskapet Music label, and to stream via most of the usual online platforms. Overall, though, and despite some caveats, the whole thing is just lovely, a pleasant 40-minute diversion, and makes for one of the most appealing animation scores of the year. Gaute Storaas continues to impress.

Track Listing: 1. Tre Røvere (0:25), 2. Camomilla (1:36), 3. Røvere Pa Bytur (0:41), 4. Trikketyver (1:06), 5. Trikkemysteriet (0:43), 6. Sultne Røvere (1:03), 7. Hushjelp Søkes (0:56), 8. Godnatt (1:38), 9. Innbrudd (0:45), 10. Dyp Søvn (1:36), 11. Borgervernet (0:26), 12. Hjem Med Byttet (0:27), 13. Tyven I Bakerbutikken (0:35), 14. Oberservert (0:47), 15. Morgen I Røverhuset (0:47), 16. Tante Sofie Vakner (1:06), 17. Løven (0:21), 18. Det Dummeste Vi Har Røvet (0:44), 19. Befrierne (0:33), 20. Krisestemning (1:10), 21. Tilbakerøving (0:49), 22. Ny Dag (2:24), 23. Blomsterplukking (1:17), 24. Fanget (1:37), 25. Kaspers Forklaring (0:38), 26. Dommen (1:47), 27. Vask Og Barbering (0:45), 28. Nyfrisert (2:43), 29. Løvemat (0:50), 30. Til Unnsetning (0:44), 31. Fangenes Brannkorps (3:29), 32. Brannmester Kasper (1:07), 33. Frie Menn (2:32). Barneselskapet Music, 38 minutes 07 seconds.

 

FUCKING BORNHOLM – Jerzy Rogiewicz

The outrageously named Fucking Bornholm is a Polish/Danish comedy drama directed by Anna Kazejak, starring Agnieszka Grochowska, Maciej Stuhr, Grzegorz Damięcki, and Jaśmina Polak. The story follows a group of friends and their respective children who embark on a traditional long weekend vacation trip to the Danish island of Bornholm. However, Their simple plans for a quiet getaway by the sea turns into a nightmare when an incident between the children triggers a series of crises in the adult relationships. The movie was a reasonable critical success in Europe over the summer of 2022, and was one of the most popular films at last year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

The score for Fucking Bornholm is by Polish composer Jerzy Rogiewicz, who is best known in his native country as a jazz percussionist, and the leader the popular jazz trio Levity. Considering this background, one would not expect the score to sound as it does: it’s a highly classical, unexpectedly beautiful work performed by the Bornholm Chamber Orchestra featuring solos by violinist Marcin Markowicz. It’s structured as a 12-movement work called ‘Sinfonia Per Archi in Re Minore – Dialoghi di Nostalgia e Quotidianità,’ which translates to ‘Symphony for Strings in D Minor – Dialogues of Nostalgia and Everyday Life,’ and at times it’s difficult to convince yourself that this isn’t a piece written 200 years ago.

It clearly plays against type, underscoring the mundane modern problems of the vacationers with intentionally over-scored classical music that provided humorous juxtaposition, but as a standalone listen its genuinely superb. The opening “Moderato,” the “Prima Variazione,” and the “Seconda Variazione,” are playful and whimsical, merry renaissance-flavored dances built around the same recurring theme. Cues like “Notturno” and “Silenzio” are a little starker and more abstract, but still effective, and the two cues entitled “Le Onde” are mournfully romantic and showcase Markowicz’s violin performances beautifully, while “Furia” and the terrific “Fuga” are fast and full of aggressive violin flourishes, as one might expect.

Fucking Bornholm is a really unexpectedly excellent piece of film music; short, captivating, and something that will especially appeal to those whose tastes veer towards the traditionally classical. It’s also a great introduction to the music of Jerzy Rogiewicz, who I had never encountered before. The soundtrack is not available on CD, but it is available to download and stream from all the main platforms.

Track Listing: 1. Moderato (2:08), 2. Intermezzo Idilliaco (0:39), 3. Notturno (1:17), 4. Prima Variazione (2:14), 5. Silenzio (0:43), 6. Le Onde (2:01), 7. Bambini (0:27), 8. Seconda Variazione (2:03), 9. Furia (1:07), 10. Punto (0:25), 11. Fuga (2:13), 12. Le Onde – Fine (1:05). Toinen Music, 16 minutes 24 seconds.

 

KAMPEN OM NARVIK – Christine Hals

Kampen Om Narvik, which was released in English-speaking territories as Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat, is a Norwegian WWII action-drama film directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, starring Carl Martin Eggesbø, Kristine Hartgen, Stig Henrik Hoff, and Kari Bremnes. The movie tells the true story of two dramatic months in the spring of 1940, when Norwegian and Allied soldiers fought side by side against the Wehrmacht to prevent the Germans from taking control of the region’s iron ore, which was deemed to be vital component of Hitler’s war machine. The film was released to critical acclaim in Norwegian theaters over the Christmas period, and has a score by Norwegian composer and vocalist Christine Hals.

Hals is an interesting woman. Film music fans will know her from her vocal performances on Christophe Beck’s score for Frozen, which made use of the unique ‘kulning’ vocal technique she learned as a girl, but she’s also been a working composer for several years, having obtained a master’s degree in film scoring from the Royal Swedish College of Music in Stockholm, and gone through the film scoring program at the University of Southern California. She has since worked on dozens of other films as a featured vocalist, and has written numerous scores for short films, but Kampen Om Narvik is likely to be her breakthrough into the film music mainstream.

Kampen Om Narvik is an impressive work. It’s a serious, intense, occasionally quite brutal contemporary action drama which takes some inspiration from the Remote Control sound, but then spins that off into several interesting directions. It’s a combo score, orchestral and electronic and sometimes incorporating a subtle choir, and for of a lot of its running time it drips with tension and threatening atmosphere, effectively capturing the grimness of the events in Norway’s frozen north. However, it is also imbued with moments of light and optimism, reflective of the heroes who saved the city from the Nazi onslaught, and this allows the score to offer some effective moments of emotional depth.

A brooding, intense main theme emerges from the opening cue, “The Battle of Narvik,” and later as the score develops Hals revisits it in ways that at times reach levels of triumphant heroism. There are some lovely moments of brass-led positivity in “Iron City Narvik 1940,” and an emotional theme for solo violin that appears in “Father and Son,” “Out of the Trenches,” and especially in the gorgeously haunting pair comprising “Fallen Soldier” and “A Soldier Returns”. Elsewhere there is a similarly-pitched romantic theme in “Young Love,” some soft moments of tragic choral reflection in cues like “Crossing the Norddal Bridge,” “A Glimpse of Love,” and “Raising the Flag,” abstract chaos in “Nightmares,” and so on.

However, for me, the best parts of the score are the action sequences. For a while they are dark and ominous – growling orchestral lines, brooding electronics throbbing with anticipation and fear, some quite intense dissonance – but then when Hals launches full steam ahead into the drama, the effect is excellent. Cues like “Blow Up the Bridge,” “In the Trenches,” and “On the Battlefield” are at times very impressive in their raw harshness. There’s a rising brass motif in several of these cues that reminds me very much of Jerry Goldsmith’s The Shadow – you can hear it especially prominently in “They Are Civilians” – as well as some sophisticated electronic sound design elements that I actually found really interesting.

In finale cues like “Fight for All That You Love,” the spiritually beautiful “Evacuating Narvik,” and especially “Heroes of Narvik” Hals increases the emotional content of the score significantly – drama, pathos, heroism, bravery, all coming through in her music. It’s a strong finale to the score, and leave you with a positive overall impression of the entire work.

Unfortunately the soundtrack for Kampen Om Narvik, is not available on CD, but it is available to download and stream from all the usual online platforms on the MTG Music label. Hopefully, the score will give Christine Hals the opportunity to score more high-profile films in the future because, on the evidence of this work, she has the talent to write anything.

Track Listing: 1. The Battle of Narvik (1:58), 2. Iron City Narvik 1940 (2:54), 3. Father and Son (0:56), 4. Young Love (0:58), 5. Under Attack (4:22), 6. Crossing the Norddal Bridge (1:45), 7. They Are Civilians (3:09), 8. Blow Up the Bridge (4:01), 9. A Glimpse of Love (2:08), 10. A Dangerous Mission (1:23), 11. HMS Warspite (1:24), 12. Walking Home in the Dark (1:08), 13. Inferno (1:43), 14. In the Roasme Mountains (3:16), 15. In the Trenches (3:43), 16. Out of the Trenches (3:41), 17. Nightmares (2:03), 18. A Desperate Call (2:17), 19. On the Battlefield (4:25), 20. Fallen Soldier (2:32), 21. Raising the Flag (2:11), 22. A Soldier Returns Home (2:37), 23. Fight for All That You Love (4:31), 24. Evacuating Narvik (Victims of War) (4:41), 25. Father and Son Part 2 (0:43), 26. Heroes of Narvik (2:41), 27. Longing for Narvik (0:41). MTG Music, 68 minutes 07 seconds.

 

MY SAILOR MY LOVE – Michelino Bisceglia

My Sailor My Love – or Rakkaani Merikapteeni in its native Finnish – is an English language romantic drama film from Finland directed by Klaus Härö. The film stars James Cosmo as Howard, a retired sailor and widower, who lives in a house by the sea on the coast of Ireland. When his adult daughter Grace (Catherine Walker) hires a caretaker named Annie (Bríd Brennan) to look after him, he is initially resentful and stubborn; however, as time goes on Howard and Annie unexpectedly begin to fall in love – an event that throws Grace into a personal crisis of her own, related to her strained emotional relationship with her father.

The score for My Sailor My Love is by the Belgian-born jazz composer Michelino Bisceglia who, with this score and his outstanding work on the animated film Charlotte, has announced himself as one of the best new composers to emerge into the film music scene in 2022. The score is just beautiful – a small scale work for orchestra, which special focus on strings, solo violin, and piano, which captures the central relationship with romantic elegance. The most important pieces are the one at the front and the two at the end – the “Opening,” the “Ending,” and the “Epilogue” – which together contain just under 10 minutes of gorgeous, appealingly sentimental music that cover all the main thematic ideas. I can’t express enough just how magnificent this music is; at times it has a classic Golden Age feel, and is consistently an unashamedly emotional – it explores the central relationship with care and tenderness, offers some appropriate moments of downbeat introspection, and regularly swells into sweeping moments of dramatic grandeur that I simply adore.

The rest of the score is broadly based on these three cues, offering variations and reprises that tug at the heartstrings in a variety of superb ways. I love the playful, slightly frisky sound of the pianos in “First Day at Work”. I love the combo writing for cello and piano in “The Sailor,” which has a slightly regretful and despondent tone. I love the gentle, timeless romance in “The Apple Tree”. I love the harp textures in “A Long Time Ago”. I love the passionate, expressive cello writing in “Stay for the Night,” and the anguished emotional tone of “I Don’t Know What To Think”. I love the lyrical woodwind line that runs through “Letter to Annie”. I love the slow, graceful chord structure of “Greatest Love”. I think a lot of you will too.

As I mentioned earlier, with the one-two punch of this score and Charlotte, Michelino Bisceglia has propelled himself into that group of composers where everything he writes going forward will be an instant acquisition; I can’t wait to see what beautiful music he has in store for us in the future. The score for My Sailor My Love has not been released on a physical CD, but is available as a digital download on the Prova Records label, and can be streamed via most of the usual major platforms.

Track Listing: 1. My Sailor My Love Opening (1:54), 2. Home Help (0:47), 3. First Day At Work (0:49), 4. The Sailor (2:12), 5. Curiosity Play (1:36), 6. A Sweet Dinner (1:09), 7. The Apple Tree (1:04), 8. A Long Time Ago (1:14), 9. The Mirror (0:40), 10. What’s Best For Him (2:00), 11. Stay For The Night (1:34), 12. Grace Night Drive (1:05), 13. Don’t Know What To Think (3:01), 14. Letter To Annie (1:29), 15. Children’s Play (0:26), 16. Grace Revealing (1:12), 17. Back Home (2:14), 18. Greatest Love (1:48), 19. Last Car Drive (1:40), 20. Visit at the Rest Home (2:16), 21. The Appreciation (0:38), 22. My Sailor My Love Ending (3:31), 23. My Sailor My Love Epilogue (3:46). Prova Records, 38 minutes 16 seconds.

 

SUPER FURBALL SAVES THE FUTURE – Panu Aaltio

Super Furball Saves the Future, aka Supermarsu 2, is a family action-adventure film from Finland, directed by Joona Tena, starring Senni Peltoniemi, Tommi Korpela, and Kari Hietalahti. It’s the sequel to the 2018 film Supermarsu, in which a young girl acquired a secret superpower from her pet guinea pig, and now sees Emilia facing off against a new threat related to climate change, bees, and a school bully who is making Emilia’s life unbearable.

Like the first Super Furball movie, Super Furball Saves the Future is again scored by the wonderful Finnish composer Panu Aaltio. It’s a bold, exciting, adventurous superhero score in the great John Williams tradition, and is filled with passages of rousing triumph, but is also a little more thoughtful and emotional in places where the film deals more with Emilia’s life and with the environmental elements of the plot; this gives the score an excellent, rounded sense of narrative and drama that is really engaging.

The terrific main Super Furball theme is back in abundance – there are outstanding statements of it in the “Main Title” and in later cues such as “Time for Heroics” and “The Bee Escape,” among many others, but what I like about this score is the way that Aaltio is ably to subtly alter it an perform some interesting variations, such as the slightly trepidatious version at the beginning of the otherwise soaring “On a New Mission,” or the tragedy-laden lament version in “No More Superpowers”. Aaltio often regularly incorporates little flashes or snippets of the theme into the score, much too frequently to mention, and in clever arrangements too, so often it will pop up on a flute or on a subdued piano in the middle of a cue, keeping it at the forefront of the listener’s minds.

The action music, as I mentioned, is bold and brassy, and often explodes into terrific, buoyant life. Cues like “”Return of the Taxi,” the rhythmically complicated “The Bee World,” “Stare Off,” the spy-thriller styled “The Secret Mission,” “Disaster at the Colony,” “Standing Up,” and “The Time Machine” are just superb, classic film score escapism, and again often feature thrilling outbursts of the Super Furball theme. The hilarious outburst of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ in “The Bee World” had me laughing out loud, in a good way, as did the Morricone Spaghetti Western pastiches in “Stare Off” and “Disaster at the Colony”.

Other interesting cues include the jaunty folk tune in “The Country Bee,” which features whistles and bouncy accordions; this accordion idea for the bees runs through quite a lot of the score, appearing as a sort of ‘guest instrument’ in the bombastic “Bee Meets Bully,” the frenetic “Birthday Mayhem,” “School Work,” the more introspective “Understanding,” and the mesmerizingly fast “The Bee Escape,” but it never becomes overbearing or obnoxious, as accordion scores can often do.

I also really appreciate the bubbling electronica and processed vocal effects underneath the orchestra in “Techno Future,” the portentous and militaristic march sound – complete with a male voice choir – in “Return from the Future” and “There’s Still Time,” and the handful of more dramatic cues which add a level of emotional depth to the score, notably “Unable to Help,” the unexpectedly lovely “Talking With Mom,” and the very serious-sounding “Repercussions”.

The final cue, “Super Furball Saves the Future,” is just a straight up classic superhero scoring of the highest order. In the soundtrack’s accompanying notes, Aaltio writes “When I heard the final cue of the album played by the 97-player Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, I got very emotional, which is really rare for me with my own music. It has been a dream come true to score a film with such thematic, soaring adventure music, and to have it performed majestically by a stellar symphony orchestra. Here it seems all the pieces fell together. The talent and dedication by everyone who worked on this score really made it feel like a piece of Hollywood film music magic made its way across the Atlantic.” That says it all really.

Super Furball Saves the Future is a terrific score, so much fun, and yet another outstanding entry into Panu Aaltio’s increasingly impressive catalogue. The score is available to purchase as a digital download from Moviescore Media here: https://moviescoremedia.com/newsite/catalogue/super-furball-saves-the-future-panu-aaltio/. It can also be streamed via all the usual sites, Amazon, Spotify, Youtube, etc..

Track Listing: 1. Main Title (2:47), 2. The Country Bee (1:10), 3. Bee Meets Bully (2:01), 4. Dear Diary (2:09), 5. Future Businessman (2:26), 6. On a New Mission (2:10), 7. Return of the Taxi (1:34), 8. Techno Future (2:16), 9. Birthday Mayhem (2:18), 10. The Bee World (2:25), 11. Unable to Help (1:08), 12. School Work (1:52), 13. The Sob Story (1:16), 14. Time for Heroics (1:58), 15. Stare Off (1:30), 16. Talking with Mom (2:07), 17. No More Superpowers (1:51), 18. The Secret Mission (3:22), 19. Return to the Future (1:55), 20. Understanding (0:47), 21. Disaster at the Colony (2:27), 22. Repercussions (2:35), 23. The Bee Escape (2:23), 24. Coming Clean (1:53), 25. No Way Out (1:44), 26. There’s Still Time (4:38), 27. Standing Up (2:07), 28. The Time Machine (2:06), 29. Super Furball Saves the Future (4:56). Moviescore Media MMS22032 , 63 minutes 51 seconds.

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  1. January 28, 2023 at 10:00 am

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