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Author Topic: Metroland - Official Interview  (Read 533 times)


  • David Knopfler
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Metroland - Official Interview
« on: July 13, 2018, 10:22:12 am »

Interview with Mark Knopfler

Metroland, 1998

Q: You've said in the past that after your last soundtrack, you weren't sure whether it was something you want to do again. However you committed to the METROLAND soundtrack immediately and had it completed in just eleven weeks. What was it that made you respond so positively?

MK: When I was first approached, I thought, having read METROLAND myself, that it wouldn't have made a film. Julian Barnes is one of our very best writers, but I couldn't see how it might have translated to the screen. But Adrian Hodges has done a wonderful job on the screenplay. When I saw the film, I was captivated by it. It's got a lot of charm. I thought the casting was elegant and the performances were very strong. It seemed to me that it had no weak points. It represents the kind of cinema we should be making more of.

Q: It must have been a tough brief, to compose a soundtrack that covered two decades and two different cultures and countries?

MK: Yes, but as a writer a lovely problem to have. It's a very English film, and a very French film so you are faced with straddling both cultures. There's a bit of everything in there, and of course America has "colonised" both cultures in terms of music, so you're really calling on an awful lot of flotsam and jetsam in order to make something that works. And there there are little milestones in terms of source music, tracks like "Stranger on the Shore" that reverberate through the film, and what I did with the score was circle it warily for a while and then started closing inon it.

Q: The period you're covering - the 60s through the 70s - would obviously have been important years to you in terms of your own musical development. Does this provide any keys or reference points which are recognisable in the soundtrack?

MK: In actual fact, I've spent my life absorbing music from the 1920s onwards, and I'm still not quite sure where invention comes from when it materialises.... but while it would have been easy to have drawn from some of that original 60s and 70s music, I felt the music had to have its own identity. And because to an extent you're working in the dark, it makes a tremendous difference when the director has an idea of what will work. Philip Saville was a great help in spotting the film and where he wanted music to begin and end. His instincts for music are extraordinary; he knew exactly where he wanted it, and 99% of the time, he was correct to the frame. That kind of overview is very useful. And I'm also extremely impressed with his casting. I mean everybody in the film. I think it's a triumph of casting.

Q: Is part of your process of creating a soundtrack to develop musical signatures for each of the characters?

MK: Yes, well there's Chris music, and Marion music... and there's certainly Annick music... so I've tried to tie things up to a certain extent and then at the same time you have to be careful that you don't overwork a theme, so that people get tired of it. It's an interesting pyscho-acoustic role that you can get into with film music.. you can dilute what's happening or you can concentrate what's happening, or you can point to things that are happening by the slightest musical reference; the slightest thing can change what you're seeing. Music is such a mysterious area; it's a whole area of choice and nothing's necessarily dictated. But also when scenes don't resolve you can't have music that resolves. Things are left hanging and you're not always dealing in melody. You're corrupting harmony sometimes, you're pointing out certain things. Then sometimes what you're going for is accompaniment which just goes by unnoticed because you're trying to aid the director's vision, you're trying to help. You don't want to distract. You don't want the audience to say, "that's wonderful music" at that point, you just want the scene to be remembered.

Q: Does it help to like the characters and the actors' performances?

MK: Oh yes. Very much so. In a lot of ways, Toni is the other side of Chris, so it's the same guy really. I see it that they represent two parts of the same character. But you've got to like them, yes. I like everybody in the film, not just the leading characters, but from the bar-owner to the commuters, they all make an impression. It means that the actors and director have succeeded. It's a complete and cracking piece of cinema.

Q: Having avoided soundtrack work for some time, have you have METROLAND to be a rejuvenating experience?

MK: Absolutely. It really has, I'm ashamed to say. I also think I'm starting to feel not quite so intimidated by it, though I feel insecure about it. I haven't enjoyed attempting a film as much as this. So it's got me back to the idea of taking on scores again.

Q: You give the impression that METROLAND typifies the kind of soundtrack work you would like to continue to do in the future.

MK: Yes, my idea of a good film is something like Lasse Hallstrom's MY LIFE AS A DOG, a film that is more sensitising than desensitising; more positive than negative; more humanising than dehumanising. I'm speaking now as a fan of books, that you can come out of a cinema and think, "My God, the camera can tell a story in a way sometimes a book can't." So often you come out thinking, "Well, I prefer the book." But with projects such as METROLAND you get a renewed sense of being inspired - in many ways it was like that with SHINE - where you come out thinking, "The camera has captured this in a way that the printed word never could."
You might get lucky, now and then

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