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Dario Marianelli at the National Concert Hall (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival)

This event was part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

I’ve argued it before, but one of the best parts of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival is the way that it isn’t just confined to the cinemas. The feast of fine Irish and international cinema is something that any film fan can celebrate, but the capital city itself becomes a hotbed for the celebration of film as an artform. So there’s all manner of wonderful extras going on – from classes in film criticism to workshops with Robert Towne, to the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of L.A. Confidential. The National Concert Hall typical does a nice job of getting into the mood, hosting celebrations of the sound of cinema. In the past, for example, they hosted the newly-written live musical accompanyment to The Four Horseman and a tribute to Danny Elfman.

This year, they invited composer Dario Marianelli over to showcase and introduce several selections of music from his distinguished career. It’s always a fantastic time to recognise and to celebrate Marianelli’s work, but to host the composer in Dublin less than a week before the Oscars is a very rare pleasure indeed.

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Marianelli earned an Oscar nomination this year for his work on Anna Karenina. In fact, the show closed with a melody of music from his latest collaboration with director Joe Wright. Wright, of course, has worked extensively with Marianella, with Marianelli describing the relationship in warm terms – “my longest collaboration,” he acknowledged. Indeed, three of the selections of music performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra came from Joe Wright films.

Marianelli offered a personal introduction to each sample, which was quite wonderfully insightful. For example, it was fascinating to hear that the piano line for Pride & Prejudice was the first piece of music that Marianelli wrote for Pride & Prejudice, for scenes where the female characters would be seen to play the piano. Reportedly Joe Wright fell so deeply in love with the music that he suggested all of the score should be composed exclusively for the piano. “I eventually convinced him to expand the orchestration,” Marianelli joked, and a lot of cinephiles are probably quite glad of that.

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Indeed, the evening was filled with lots of stories about how Marianelli established his working relationships. Director Paddy Breathnach introduced the evening, which felt appropriate. Marianelli’s first film music had been written for Breathnach’s debut feature film, Ailsa. Breathnach remembered how he first came to hear Marianelli’s music, listening to cassette in the bathroom at a friend’s house.

Marianelli himself explained his aggressive professional courtship of director Terry Gilliam for The Brothers Grimm. After sending several tapes via an intermediary, apparently Gilliam was impressed, sending a message back. “Can he write fast music?” Marianelli joked that the faster pace of the soundtrack to The Brothers Grimm was an attempt to rise to that particular challenge. Listening to the sample of the soundtrack performed live, it’s hard to argue.

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Marianelli also talked a bit about his methodology and approach to music. The highlight of the evening – for me at least – was hearing a selection of music from Atonement. Marianelli explained that he really fell in love the script, noting that it had “a lot of space where music could fit.” Indeed, Marianelli’s soundtrack work was very clearly and explicitly tailored to the film, integrated quite carefully and meticulously – there’s a tendency to play with diegetic sound in his work.

Marianelli and the various people working on the show seemed to make a conscious effort to preserve those links, rather than divorcing the soundtrack from the context of the film. So actor Darragh Kelly was present for the selection of music from Ailsa, to read some of the dialogue from the film over the score. The soundtrack to Atonement included one member of the orchestra “on typewriter” to great effect, and the muted singing of the choir from the Dunkirk scene was also a deeply important part of the music on show. There’s something quite elegant and quite telling about the respect that the concert had for these aspects on Marianelli’s music.

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The evening opted for a few rather expansive excerpts from a relatively tight selection of scores. Which, to be fair, is probably the approach to Marianelli’s music that makes the most sense. It’s possible to lose yourself in his soundtracks, and I think that truncating or abridging the selections further in order to offer a more comprehensive overview of Marianelli’s extensive filmography would have undermined the music performed so very well here.

It was a wonderful evening, and a wonderful continuation of what has been a long a fruitful collaboration between the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, the National Concert Hall and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. It really was fantastically put together, a truly entertaining evening.

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