Suffragette / by Charlie Brigden

suffragette 2014 Alexandre Desplat was in the film music spotlight all year in 2014 and his excellent run culminated with winning an Academy Award for The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, he seemed to have disappeared right after, at least from the perspective of short-memoried mainstream consciousness. Suffragette is his most prominent score of 2015 so far and is attached to a film starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter, Brendan Glesson, Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep. The history of British women movements is not exactly among the best explored subjects in film medium and Sarah Gavron’s project serves as a strong remedy for this situation.

The scores is Alexandre Desplat's way back into a more typical period drama material he's known for. As with many of his scores, Suffragette is propelled by a strong rhythm and steady heartbeat. The composer probably wanted to mirror many of the subtexts with this device and, truth be told, it certainly ends up being highly effective. Occasionally, it takes the form on electronic beat (‘Suffragette’), sometimes it does have a slightly more martial and orchestral tone (‘Beaten’). There is a great sense of excitement and determination, which seems to perfectly mirror the themes of Gavron's film.

‘Demonstration’ feels more mysterious and suspenseful but it soon becomes even more intense and fast paced than previous tracks. The curious rhythmic juxtaposition of steady contemplative woodwind performances against the more brutal propulsion of string sections is a testament of Desplat’s superb dramatic and musical talents.

While some brighter tones are introduced in ‘Surveillance’, it is all but short-lived. ‘Prison’ is full of regret and contemplation while ‘Force-Fed’ descends into an even darker territory where both the lowest and highest registers of Desplat’s moderate orchestral ensemble are explored. ‘Bombings’ carry on with the tense underscore that develops into an almost thriller-like material of contemporary action cinema. Certainly, a nice stylistic deviation for a period drama music.

‘Child Taken’ is a wonderfully haunting piece arranged mostly for string section. It is a remorseful and sad track, speaking to loss and pain of Cary Mulligan’s character. ‘Votes for Women’ brings back the steady and unrelenting pulse from the opening track that persists with newly found determination. There is a growing sense of excitement that also feels both tense and noble. ‘Epsom Derby’ is even more agitated and concludes with repetitive circling idea on synthesisers, woodwinds and percussion. ‘Legacy’ is a brief and contemplative coda and brings the soundtrack presentation to a surprisingly abrupt end.

The soundtrack album from Back Lot Music is a concise and pleasant programme that presents Desplat’s intentions with clarity and purpose. The largely rhythmic nature of his music doesn’t allow for creating memorable themes to remember and whistle. But his interesting take on the period films is always intriguing and welcome. While certainly not among composer’s finest hours, Suffragette once again proves that he’s among the finest musical talents in this business.

-Karol Krok

Suffragette is out now from Back Lot Music