Alexandre Desplat’s 2016: A Frenchman with a Preference for Drama

Alexandre Desplat is not only one of the best and most well-regarded film composers working in the the industry nowadays but he is also one of the most productive. Within the following article, we want to take a closer look at his huge output of 2016, ranging from intimate dramas to spectacular sci-fiction action – yeah, you know what I’m talking about… 😉


Alone in Berlin

Desplat’s first official entry in a year packed with a whole bunch of his scores is “just another” World War 2 drama, this time set in Berlin and based on Hans Fallada’s bestselling novel. It follows the touching story of a couple whose only child is killed fighting at the front which then results in an extraordinary act of resistance. The movie itself premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, earning mostly negative critical response. Alexandre Desplat’s score still remains unreleased and has been described by “Variety” as a score that “boasts expertly melancholic piano runs by the sheetload, but none that will tease the memory long after “Alone in Berlin” reaches ist grave coclusion”.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Next up is the French composer’s score for Stephen Frears’ Comedy drama “Florence Foster Jenkins” which tells the true story of the famous New York heiress by the same name who almost obsessively pursued her dream of becoming a great popular opera singer despite having a terrible voice. Critics praised Meryl Streep’s astonishing performance speculating on a possible 20th Academy Award nomination for the actress while the movie itself received generally favorable reviews.

The music Desplat came up with for this one is heavily jazz-influenced featuring a brilliant big band which contributes to giving the music an overall feeling of joy, ease and lightheartedness. And it’s really a lot of fun!

France (Les habitants)

This French documentary is directed by Raymound Depardon and follows him as he drives through France, from the north to the south, and stops in front of cities and villages to meet the people who are living there. It has been released in France on April 27, 2016. No word on a score release yet.

Marseille (TV series)

The next project he’s worked on is a way more serious one, with Desplat only providing the leitmotivic ideas while the rest of the score has been composed by his long-time collaborator and orchestrator Jean-Pascal Beintus with whom Desplat has already worked on incredibly successful movies such as “Harry Potter” and “The Tree of Life” before.

“Marseille” is a political-focused series by Netflix starring Gerard Depardieu as the main protagonist.  It’s been regarded with great anticipation for being the first specifically French series created by Netflix, but which ultimately failed to impress audiences after its release. The same can be said about the score which does just feel like an arbitrary thriller score completely forgetting about the emotional core of the story.

The Secret Life of Pets

One of the summer’s biggest hits is Illumination Entertainment’s animation movie “The Secret Life of Pets”, earning more than 760 Dollars worldwide by the time this article has been published (seriously, why do these kind of movies make so MUCH money? Okay, it’s actually quite a lot of fun – but literally every single one of them?!).

 It is actually quite refreshing to hear a score by Desplat that does not fit in his typical choice of scoring dramas. Yes, you shoud probably have a high tolerance for jazz and fast shifts between different musical genres if you would like to appreciate this kind of score. But by listening to the album, it is evident that Desplat just had so much fun writing this one – and for us, it is even more fun to be able to listen to such an energetic score!


The Light Between Oceans

This time, Desplat is back in his comfort zone, doing what he does best: Scoring drama – and despite having written some excellent scores for this genre in the past, this score really feels like a destillation of everything wonderful he has delivered so far. The French composer excels at underlining the emotional core of the heartbreaking romance starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender as the movie’s main characters. To be honest: It is one of Desplat’s very best; go and listen to it – you’ll love it!

Also check out my review of this wonderful score here: The Light Between Oceans – Alexandre Desplat


American Pastoral

“American Pastoral” marks the directional debut of actor Ewan McGregor and is set to be released at the end of October by Lionsgate. Starring Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and McGregor himself, the movie follows the story of a man who watches his complete life falling apart as his daughter’s new political attitude – she starts committing acts of political terrorism – slowly threatens to destroy their family.

An album featuring Desplat’s score will be released physically in October on Lakeshore Records. It will be quite interesting to see how he approached this movie.


The Odyssey

No drama but a biographical adventure film that follows Jacques Ives Cousteau, the great French ocean-going adventurer, biologist, and filmmaker (well, I’ve actually never heard of him before, but it says he’s still kind of famous…should I feel ashamed now?).

It is a comparatively small-scale movie, a Belgian-French co-production directed by Jerome Salle with whom Desplat has worked before on films such as “Largo Winch” and “Zulu”. So far, no release date for the score has been announced yet and we know very little about Desplat’s involvement in the project. Let’s just hope this does not end up like his never-released “The Tale of Tales”!


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The movie everyone (okay, okay, ALMOST everyone…) is looking forward to this year: Another Star Wars movie with historical importance: Despite “only” being a spinoff, it is nonetheless the first entry in the whole series that does not feature a John Williams score (hey, I’ve warned you that it is of historical importance!).

At this point, it is still unkown if Desplat decided to incorporate Williams’s pre-existing leitmotivic ideas although it would definitely make sense to throw in the famous “Rebel Fanfare” or the classic “Imperial March” – yes, we’re even going to see Darth Vader in action again!

Personally, I’m extremely interested in hearing what Desplat’s coming up with for this heavily-anticipated movie; if he delivers and showcases his enormous talent, it could very well be the score of the year. But we will have to wait and see how this turns out. At this point, Desplat is (well, again) a clear frontrunner for the prestigious title of composer of the year.




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