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INTERVIEW WITH DARIO MARIANELLI

BRINGING A TUSCAN SENSIBILITY TO PINOCCHIO - Two films with music by Dario Marianelli can be seen in Dutch cinemas at this moment. Since its release in July Pinocchio was very successful at the box office. The Italian film by director Matteo Garrone proved to be a return for UK-based Marianelli to his homeland. The other film is The Secret Garden, a new update of the beloved children’s book. The composer discussed both scores with Score recently.

Pinocchio is an icon in children’s literature and his story is one of Italy’s quintessential novels. Carlo Collodi’s tale about the wooden boy with the long nose who desperately longs to be a real boy is still very admired by both children and adults all over the world. There have been many cinematic adaptations of the story like the animated Disney film from 1940 and the enormously popular Italian TV-series Le avventure di Pinocchio (1972) by Luigi Comencini. Was this assignment different from the other films you scored? Marianelli: ‛Yes. The main reason is that, as every Italian of my generation, I was brought up with Pinocchio as an ever-present reference. Not just the book, which my parents read to me very early on before I read it myself many other times, but also with a hugely impactful TV version from the 70s. That version had an extraordinary soundtrack by a great Italian composer, Fiorenzo Carpi. I think every Italian of my generation has that music indelibly engraved in their memory. That TV series and its music were a big presence in my upbringing and it was impossible to avoid some kind of respectful acknowledgment of that in my own score for Pinocchio.’

How did you get involved with this project? ‛When I knew that Matteo was shooting Pinocchio I let him know that I was interested in collaborating. I thought that I could bring something of my own sensibility to his movie, being myself Tuscan as the original story and characters are, and having truly loved it for such a long time.’

                                                                                    Federico Ielapi in Pinocchio.

Pinocchio is one of two Italian films Marianelli has worked for lately. Born in Pisa in 1963 he studied piano and composition in Florence and London. After a year as a postgraduate composer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he spent three years at the National Film and Television School, from which he graduated in 1997. Starting to compose for film in 1994 his collaboration with director Joe Wright stood out with films like Pride & Prejudice (2005), Anna Karenina (2012), Darkest Hour (2017) and especially his groundbreaking score for Atonement (2007) which won the composer an Academy Award. Did Pinocchio feel like a homecoming for you? ‛Working in Italy has been something of a novelty for me, and it has brought a number of contradictory feelings. It probably should have felt like coming home, except that I have made my home in London for over thirty years now. My entire professional life has happened in the UK, in English, and I was very worried that my Italian vocabulary, when it came to communicate with directors in Italy, would have been lacking. I had the good fortune of working with a couple of extraordinarily talented directors on my Italian experiences: they made it quite easy for me.’

Innocence

How did you approach this score? ‛I wrote a few themes early on, but apart from one which was meant for the Blue Fairy, the other themes were mostly not attached to characters. I think I was trying to bring up something of an “ethical” quality, a sort of simplicity, both melodically and harmonically, which I was hoping would not be too obvious or pedestrian.’ Hearing the main theme, the sound of a lullaby filled with innocence comes to mind. ‛There is probably more than one theme that might remind of a lullaby in the score. I am not sure which one you refer to, but I guess the “ innocence”, if you hear that, comes out of my efforts to keep things simple.’

Watching the film and listening to the score, the music has an Italian voice like the scene where Pinocchio works on a farm. Can you describe what this Italian voice or sound is? ‛This is a hard question. I am glad you hear Italy in the music, but I would not be able to really describe it in words where that sound is. I can say that I admired many wonderful Italian composers, as I was growing up: I discovered some of their names only later, when I got a professional interest in their work, but their music had grabbed me as a kid, growing up in the 60s and 70s in Italy. You probably hear some of the marks their voices left on me.‛

For this score Marianelli worked closely together with singer Petra Magoni. ‛Petra was the immediate choice for the vocals in the score. In fact it was Matteo’s suggestion that we should use a female voice, mostly in connection with the Fairy. Petra is from Pisa, like myself: we had met a few years ago, and I really loved her voice, the intelligence and imagination that she brings to anything she does. So it was an easy ask …’ Magoni’s singing can be heard in Passo passo during the end credits. Were you also involved with this song? ‛Yes. I also wrote the lyrics, besides the music. Matteo had asked me what I thought we could do for the end credits: it seemed the perfect place to give Petra something more to do, to bring the movie to a close, and it made sense to use themes and harmonies from the rest of the score in the song.’

Where did you record the music? ‛In Rome, with Goffredo Gibellini at Digital Records, and with the Roma Tre Orchestra. I had met and worked with the orchestra a couple of years earlier, they had played on my score for Marco Tullio Giordana’s Nome di donna. And we had done a few live concerts in Italy, with them playing suites from Atonement, Anna Karenina and Pride & Prejudice.’ You used a lot of instruments. Can you name a few and explain what their function was? ‛If you mean instruments that are not normally associated with symphony orchestra … I used an accordion, a recorder, acoustic and electric guitars, a harmonica, my own whistling, together with Petra’s voice and then a more usual small orchestral ensemble. Their function was to move the score away from a too polished symphonic and possibly heavier sound, towards something which has roots in folk music, that belongs to a humbler, poorer world.’

                                          Edan Hayhurst, Amir Wilson and Dixie Egerickx in The Secret Garden.

Mysterious

Last week a new version of The Secret Garden, based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, opened in our cinemas. Directed by Marc Munden the film stars Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Dixie Egerickx as Mary, the young girl who discovers a secret garden near the mansion where she recently has come to live. Marianelli wrote a light, slightly mysterious and melodic score. For the dark, spooky mansion one might expect dark and eerie music. Did you avoid horror-like music because this is actually a family film or a film for young children? ‛I thought that the dark and spooky elements that were in the story should still be seen through childhood, and horror was not appropriate. There’s a vague sense of gothic ghost story hinted at in the first few scenes after Mary’s arrival at the mansion, but it disappears quickly to leave space to other concerns: memory, loss, spiritual and physical healing.’

There are several threads in the story: the dead mothers, the colourful garden versus the dead house, the three children growing towards each other, etc. What did you want to accentuate with your music? ‛The garden is not just colourful: in this version of the story it actually comes alive, it is an active presence in the children’s imagination. I tried to get part of the score to help with the sense that the sprawling garden is a huge magical creature, which awakens after a long sleep and starts helping the children with their growing-up. Other threads in the music try to connect memory and loss with a sense of growing acceptance, forgiveness and, ultimately, healing.’

The score for Pinocchio will be released by Air Edel Records on August 28th across all major digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Paul Stevelmans