Hildur Gudnadottir – Congratulations

Awards left to right:

Society of Composers and Lyricists/Bafta/Critics Choice/Emmy/Golden Globe/Oscar

Her surname may be unpronounceable to many but the award-winning success of her terrific score for Joker cannot be ignored. You either hate and dismiss it or like me, think it is one of the best ever and embrace it. It would seem that there is no middle ground with this one and thankfully it also seems the cheers outnumbered the boos.

Joker is a soundtrack for the age, and at last, firmly signals that a score does not have to be symphonic or melodic. Above all else what it does have to be/do is fit the film like a glove. I am not saying that the film itself would not have received the plaudits it has if Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir had not done the score, Joaquin Phoenix alone would have elevated this film as would the inclusive direction of Todd Phillips. The score was another character playing a vital and unforgettable role namely the echo of all that was happening inside Joker’s fractured mind.

I saw the film in a packed cinema, at the end we all slowly shuffled out and not one single person said a word for quite a while. It had high impact and for me, being a soundtrack enthusiast for many years, her closing music stayed in my head for some time. Imagine watching the film without Gudnadottir’s participation, it would be difficult to imagine such is the symbiotic nature of her composition.

Over the past few weeks, I have read many comments about ‘why is she winning awards for her work – for Joker and her superb score for the TV series Chernobyl. It has been uncomfortable to read at times. I am sure some of it is down to the usual age-old question- ‘is this music or just noise’? ‘Well it’s much more than noise, it’s a state of mind and that’s exactly what this film was all about. The tortured and twisted mind of a comic book character who is reacting to the evils of a society in a world we are all aware of. Serious stuff that needed a serious slug of music to enhance Joker’s breakdown [or transference].

Another reason I write is to applaud the sheer number of Awards Gudnadottir has garnered, not just the ones I have mentioned but numerous others, plus we cannot ignore the history that’s been made. She is the first woman to win in the best original score category since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences combined all of the score categories into one in 2000.

And she is one of only seven women to be nominated in any score composition category, only three have won. Previously, Marilyn Bergman won an Oscar for composing for “Yentl” alongside Michel Legrand and Alan Bergman, Rachel Portman won for “Emma” and Anne Dudley won for “The Full Monty.”

After thanking her family and collaborators, Hildur ended her Oscar acceptance speech by saying “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within: please, speak up. We need to hear your voices.”







Soundtrack by Rachel Portman – Pocket Review

Due to other ‘stuff’ which invades life, I am introducing my ‘pocket size’ soundtrack reviews for when I don’t have the time to write more. This way I don’t miss out a bunch soundtracks which deserve to be heard.

Starting with this exquisite score. Despite The Falling Snow directed by Sharim Sharif adapted from her 2004 book. Part spy, part love story starring Charles Dance, Rebecca Ferguson and Sam Reid. It flits between the early 60’s in cold war America when a young Sasha [Reid] meets his wife, and the early 90’s when an older Sasha [Dance] has a young niece who is keen to discover the truth about her family.

Portmans’ piano led score is sparse and the overall effect is one of utter heartbreak. The opening title track bears this heartbreak with dominant strings and eerie cello’s. In I have Instructions the strings spiral with tension. This is Portman at her best with her gift for  lightness of touch, the piano ripples through the soundtrack to great effect. Just a few chords portray great love and loss, intrigue and betrayal. I Was Blackmailed is the strongest track where a beautifully played cello lurks with tension.

This is not a score that you may listen to often [they are not all designed to be eternally in our playlists] but do not dismiss it. It is a very good score which leads me to ask – does Ms Portman ever do anything less than good? [No, would be the correct answer here].


1. Despite The Falling Snow
2. The Last Dinner
3. I Have Instructions
4. New York 1961
5. You Can Never Go Back
6. Misha In Action
7. The Drop Goes Wrong
8. Katya Remembers
9. Misha Goes To State Archive
10. It’s Time You Took Something
11. Katya betrays Sasha
12. I Won’t Ruin Him
13. The Wedding
14. Katya Betrays Sasha
15. It’s Treason Treason, Katya
16. Dimitri Was My Father
17. I Was Blackmailed
18. We’re On Our Own
19. Farewell At the Safe House
20. Misha Confessess
21. Misha Explains
22. Katya’s Letter

Cube Soundtracks Ltd
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