Flight sequences prove biggest challenge

For Gabriel Yared, who remains best-known for his decade-long partnership with the late Anthony Minghella, the challenge of “Amelia” — Mira Nair’s biopic of aviatrix Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank — was to “capture the majesty, mystery and freedom of flight. Amelia is always somewhere else, whether she’s on the ground or in the sky,” Yared says.

To achieve a sense of being aloft, Yared relied on a large orchestra to convey lush, noble themes. “I asked myself how do I feel when I’m up in the air,” says the Oscar winner for “The English Patient.”

If viewers find themselves recalling the grand scores of yore, that’s no accident. “This film takes place in the 1930s, so it naturally lends itself to a more traditional score,” Yared says. “And it’s about a lover of the air and the ethereal spirit, so it deserved that sort of score. It’s meant to elevate the audience and have a timeless nature.”

Yet there’s a huge difference between acknowledging the past and aping it. “If there is a connection between my colleagues and I, it is a mutual respect for the great classical composers and the inspiration we all draw from them,” he says.

And Yared’s compositional methods are rooted in that world. “When I write music for a film, I try to connect with its spirit rather than working shot by shot,” he says. “To begin, I often close my eyes and just work on remembering the essence of the film. Then I move to the piano and start writing the main themes. Finally, I develop those themes as a classical composer would. In this case, I attended a very early screening, when the film was not yet cut. This very much inspired me. As long as I can see images and dream, I have enough to begin work.”

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