When it came to supplying his World War I opus, “A Very Long Engagement” with a score, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet felt like he was banging his head against a wall.
“He experimented with a hundred different temp scores from all over the place and nothing was working,” recalls “Engagement” composer Angelo Badalamenti, who had worked with the French helmer on the 1995 film “The City of Lost Children.”
It wasn’t until Jeunet began layering his initial edit with music from the French film “L’Adversaire,” another Badalamenti score, that things began to gel. While “L’Adversaire’s” score was much darker than what “Engagement” called for, it was enough for Jeunet to realize he needed a composer with a penchant for haunting, romantic sonatas — Badalamenti’s forte.
Ever since hooking up with David Lynch on 1986’s “Blue Velvet,” Badalamenti has been known for his quirky experimentalism that draws as much on moody textures as it does on droll humor. His work with Lynch is so characteristically strange it’s hard to think of Lynch’s films, not to mention the groundbreaking ABC series “Twin Peaks,” without Badalamenti’s viscous soundscapes.
In fact, it was through Lynch that Badalamenti first met Jeunet when both directors where editing pics next door to one another in Paris during the mid ’90s. “Engagement” marks a departure from the synthesized subversion of Lynch’s universe, typically highlighted by a blend of techno, cool jazz, bluesy bass lines and angelic strings.
While Badalamenti fans will recognize the composer’s use of heavy bass in “Engagement,” the film’s score is mostly classical, complementing the WWI epic’s romantic plotline about Mathilde (Audrey Tautou), a young woman who believes her fiance Manech is alive despite reports he died in battle.
To convey the absurdity of war, Badalamenti used French horns in the melody.
“They have a particular sound and worked beautifully with my own personal style,” says the composer, whose primary instrument is the French horn. “This kind of music is played throughout the whole movie whenever the mood goes back to war.”