Score-ally Yours, Part III: Atonement

Upon going over my list of favorite film scores, I quickly discovered that you really cannot write cogently about the music belonging to a film that you’ve never seen.  I can’t, anyway, so I trimmed my list and will reveal the discarded titles at the end of this little series.  As Barney Stinson would say, “Wait for it…”.

In the meantime, however, I’m happily writing about award-winning composer Dario Marianelli and his clever, artful and compelling score to the film Atonement.  Set in WWII-era England, the film stars James McAvoy (sigh) and Keira Knightley as ill-fated lovers Robbie and Cecilia.  As a card-carrying member of The Book Was Better Society, I will say that I found the movie quite depressing and enjoyed Ian McEwan’s novel more only because you simply cannot replicate the intricacy of an author’s artistic hand and mind in a movie.  Nonetheless, the score made a lasting impression.

I’ve picked the movement “Briony” to focus on because it showcases Marianelli’s inventiveness at weaving together note and plot.  The opening measures don’t feature instruments at all- you hear the delicate, earnest clink of typewriter keys, which then meander their way through the rest of the few minutes in a percussive form before neatly polishing off the piece with a swipe and a tearing off of paper.

I was so struck by this because The Typewriter is an integral character in the movie. Robbie’s fervent lines to Cecilia, dashed off with impassioned anticipation and never meant for the eyes of conniving younger sister Briony, caused the cascading string of events that forever changed both their lives.  I love how Marianelli decided to use typewriter keys as an instrument and giving them a very unique spotlight.  The entire piece is very hurried and staccato, portraying just the right sense of urgency.  It’s delightful and a bit mysterious.  Enjoy!

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