The associate artist Ryuichi Sakamoto has made film music for over thirty films. He got his start in 1983 with the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence by film director Nagisa Oshima - a film he also played a role in himself, alongside David Bowie. He went on to compose soundtracks for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), The Sheltering Sky (1990) and Little Buddha (1994), for Pedro Almodovar’s High Heels (1991), Oliver Stone’s Wild Palms (1993) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015). As well as for many smaller, but no less interesting films, like Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004).

The collaboration between the Holland Festival and associate artist Ryuichi Sakamoto is a reason for Eye to put the spotlight on Sakamoto’s impressive oeuvre of film music and the ways it continues to inspire new generations of (film) composers.

Hildur Guðnadóttir was no newcomer to Hollywood, thanks to her cello performance in Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score for The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2015) and many other films. Not long after, she received an Oscar for the score she composed for Joker, making history as the first woman ever to win in that category.

Guðnadóttir’s film music is regularly cited as an example of the striking shift taking place in the world of film music. For a long time film scores were too often weakened into quasi-interchangeable orchestral music. Now, however, young film composers with guts, with a signature of their own and a disregard of conventions have lately been coming to the fore.

The score for Joker is a shining example of this trend. Bombastic themes are discarded to make room for an abstract, ominous sound design interspersed with trenchant solo cello playing. The score is nonconformist, does not aim to please and is arranged with singular austerity. Guðnadóttir thus single-handedly managed to lift the film, including Joaquin Phoenix’s maniacal role as The Joker, to a higher plane.


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