Marianelli: Classic novel adaptation is given classicist’s treatment

Eye on the Oscars: The Music - Dario Marianelli

There’s no getting around the burden of expectations that comes with seeing favorite novels adapted to the screen — especially if they’ve been filmed before, as with “Jane Eyre.” But composer Dario Marianelli, who won an Oscar for “Atonement” (2007), says worrying about such things “can be very crippling.”

His alternative is to “seek shelter from that kind of anxiety in musical ideas.” But in order to do so, he maintains, “one must explore themes that in the novel are not particularly explicit.”

In the case of “Jane Eyre,” he was ostensibly helped by scribe Moira Buffini’s flashback structure, which divided the narrative between “memory-time” and “a more deceptive present tense.” This gave Marianelli the idea that the memory portions of the movie should have music and that the present-tense material should not.

“But it was impossible to stick to that simple division,” the composer acknowledges. “There were many sections that simply required score, even if that contradicted the clarity that would have resulted by sticking to the ‘memory equals music’ rule. Trying to keep the clarity of the structure and accommodate those exceptions is what I found hardest. I cannot think of another movie where I have had so many conversations with my director and the editor about where music should go, and where it shouldn’t.”

More troubling to the composer was his eventual realization that Jane’s inner journey needed focus. He decided on a solo violin as the right vehicle for that trip. “Jane’s theme grew from there, as a reflection of her strong, determined soul — one that is capable of endurance, but also of soaring sky-high.”

Listeners may think of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and especially his “Lark Ascending,” when hearing this score. But Marianelli is not aping the great English pastoralist so much as paying homage to his lush strains. And the substantial string orchestra he uses makes that point with intoxicating directness.

Marianelli calls the solo violin in this movie “my secret weapon,” and there’s no question he uses the familiar instrument with impressive restraint. “I wanted to find a way for the violin to connect to some inner place within Jane’s gradually emerging sense of independence and self-worth,” he says. “And I was very lucky to find a great violinist in Jack Liebeck, who embraced and brought to life my efforts.”

Lyrics bring pix to life | Stars tune up plots | John goes Gaga over inanimate romance
From rising stars to Oscar winners, seven composers talk about the method to their musicality:
Henry Jackman | Alberto Iglesias | Dario Marianelli | Michael Giacchino | Abel Korzeniowski | Conrad Pope | Thomas Newman