After being one of electronic music’s most talented people in the background for far too long it felt like 2013 finally was the year for JON HOPKINS to step out of the shadow and into the heads and hearts of a broader audience. His latest album Immunity was critically more than well received, mixing his love for atmospheric electronic tenderness with a more club-appealing sound. It’s not surprising that HOPKINS becomes more and more an acclaimed composer for movie scores. His one for the 2010 sci-fi movie Monsters was already a bliss, his latest work for How I Love Now is just another proof for this man’s unique talent.
It’s never easy judging the movie score without having seen the actual movie. In good cases it goes hand in hand. The author of this article has seen the movie twice but is also pretty sure that the sound itself will work without the images. How I Live Now, based on a novel, is the latest movie by British director Kevin MacDonald. It celebrated its theatrical release last autumn in England and is now – maybe – also coming to a cinema near you. Well, depending on your country. The story itself might look like a stereotypical Coming-of-Age-plot. A young teenage girl – arrogant and selfish at the beginning – finds her place and takes responsibility for the people she loves. The special setting of the story marks the twist. It is set in the British countryside with a new world war breaking out, with the United Kingdom hitting it on the hardest. While details of this conflict are left in the dark it gives the movie a constant dystopian atmosphere – JON HOPKINS‘ score is one element of this.
Compared to his work for the Monsters score the composer uses less electronic elements which makes the music sound more natural. The piano stays the key instrument of HOPKINS‘ work. His tender play gives the score a discreet note. And it helps to give the actual images more space in the movie. How I Live Now is a very visual adventure. The innocent days of the children playing in the green and sunny countryside are visualized in bright colours. Songs like The Field, The River or The Hawk are the soundtrack of this harmonic period. But once the setting gets darker and desperate the warmth leaves HOPKINS‘ compositions without fully vanishing.
While the movie also uses a few popular songs – including a great feature of NICK DRAKE‘s Which Will – the soundtrack only keeps two of these moments. Do It With A Rockstar by AMANDA PALMER AND THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA opens the movie and score. A great way of showing her adolescent arrogance and cold urban attitude of the female protagonist. Another one is a slightly edited rework of Home by DAUGTHER which works great in the middle of the movie and the middle of the score. Technoid moments still get a bit space. The pumping Escape and the spooky Hunted are results of this. But all in all beauty and simplicity reigns on this score. Especially in the end. Lost Map / The Hawk and the title track see harmony returning to the music of JON HOPKINS. Just like within the movie the war is over and hope is about to return as well.
Okay, what we’re basically trying to say – watch this movie since it’s really good, got strong images, a solid performance by actress Saoirse Ronan and a great atmosphere in general. It shows the importance of a lot of basic human elements in difficult times. HOPKINS‘ soundtrack accompanies this message with a certain feeling of intimate honesty. It’s the small things that matter in the end. So, in all of its simplicity this score really is a huge one.
JON HOPKINS‘ latest movie score work for ‘How I Live Now’ accompanies its beautiful but also partly dystopian images with a tender soundtrack that is able to work on its own.
NBHAP Rating: 4/5