Produced in 2012, LA MULA or THE MULE was directed by Michael Radford who helmed the award winning movie IL POSTINO. The movie is a comedy/drama love story based upon the novel by Juan Eslava Galan, who also provided the movie with its screenplay. The film is set during the closing days of The Spanish Civil War, the story focuses upon a soldier who finds a mule on a battlefield and decides to take the animal with him on a journey through the countryside as company and at the same time to protect it, he also on his journey tries to make some sense of all the chaos that is happening around him. The music for this entertaining and delightful movie is the work of Spanish born composer Oscar Navarro
; the composer has written an equally entertaining score that contains many musical colours and moods. Given the subject matter there are some obvious musical references to the country where the story is set, i.e., solo guitar, castanet’s, energetic sounding strings and flamenco type clapping, which give the work a real Hispanic sound and atmosphere, on the whole this is a fully melodic and symphonic sounding soundtrack that contains a number of jaunty and vibrant passages plus there are as many emotive sounding compositions included within the work, heartfelt cello is utilized at one point within the score and its fleeting but effective presence melts the listeners emotions swiftly and decisively. The composer also makes effective use of martial sounding music that appears on a number of occasions underlining the central characters involvement with the military, also included there are more plaintive and poignant sounds which come courtesy of solo piano and accompanying strings which create a rich and romantically slanted mood. Solo violin is also a significant emotive feature within the framework of the score the composer employing the instrument to radiate a sense of heartrending poignancy and ingratiate and infuse proceedings with elegance and tenderness. Track one, CREDITOS FINALES (MAIN THEME FROM LA MULA) is a particularly melodic and rich sounding piece, it begins with low key strings that are accompanied by guitar, the strings gradually begin to become the mainstay of the composition mirrored by faraway sounding horn and building to a tumultuous and heartrending crescendo in many ways it did remind me of some of the music from LAS 13 ROSAS by Roque Banos, it is a sumptuous, poignant and highly melodic theme that I think Max Steiner
would have been proud of, it is overflowing with emotive thematic properties and a stunning opening to the score. Track number two, CASTRO Y CONCHI. Is a quieter and if it is at all possible more deeply heartfelt variation on the scores central theme, performed by solo violin, which is subtly underlined and supported by a scattering of strings adding depth and even more emotion to the short lived by effective piece. Track three, EL TOCADISCOS is a lighter more robust and up tempo composition, the music posses a real Hispanic sound and is brimming with references that conjure up a Spanish atmosphere, castanets, pizzicato strings and also strong fiery sounding strings combine with cheerful sounding woodwind, brass, solo trumpet and clapping, these components combine to create a composition that has comedic qualities but also remains highly melodic and interestingly entertaining at the same time. In a number of ways the style of music employed here reminded me a lot of the western scores of Maurice Jarre
as in BEHOLD A PALE HORSE and also, THE PROFFESSIONALS and VILLA RIDES, by this I mean it is tuneful and at the same time quirky and catchy with infectious rhythmic nuances that delight. The music also has a sound to it that can be likened to that of Elmer Bernstein
when that particular composer was in western score mode, i.e. His Mexican flavoured cues from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Track number four, AMISTAD, is a beautiful and enticing tone poem written for solo piano and two violins, the piano creating a subdued but beautifully melodic introduction which acts as a delicate background to in the first instant a solo violin, this after a short time is joined by a second violin and further supported by the string section and a brief and subdued rumbling of percussion which seems to bring all of the musical elements together in a low key but effective crescendo. Track number five, YO NO SOY ESCLAVO DE NADIE, is a return to a proud sounding Spanish sound with guitar and strings interspersed by brass stabs and flourishes that are them selves supported by castanets and percussion. The remainder of the score contains numerous pieces that are of a lighter nature and written generally with a comedic air to them, but every so often a sprinkling of poignant and emotive melody glimmers through delicately rising from nowhere and creating an air and atmosphere that is near magical and so emotional that it is literally heart stopping and stunning. The scores final cue is IL GRAN FINAL, this begins in a subdued and low key fashion, with low strings acting as a backdrop to harp which pensively picks out a sad and fragile sounding theme, strings begin to rise in volume and the harp is replaced by solo woodwind that continues to perform the subdued but haunting piece this then too is replaced by solo guitar, strings still enhance but are all the time gradually building and gaining momentum until percussion ushers in a strident and highly emotive and grand sounding performance from the string section, which evoke memories of film music from a bygone age when it was lush, luxurious and melodic.
LA MULA is a great score, it includes so many powerful melodies and so many emotional and passionate passages that thrill and excite, it has the ability to make one smile, evoke the feeling of being sombre and reflective and even at times relays a real sense of intimacy that gets right to the listeners soul, the music has so much character and variety to it and I know that once heard it will be returned to again and again. As yet the score is not released and available as a review promo only, but I know it will not be long before this wonderful score sees a commercial compact disc release, it must!!!!!! Recommended highly…
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light