Jonny Greenwood’s score for Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” is dark and complicated, just like its characters.
Campion’s latest film has garnered critical acclaim and could land her a historic best director nomination at the Academy Awards. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Phil Burbank, a complex cowboy living on the family ranch and whose life is disrupted when his brother brings home a new wife, Rose (Kristen Dunst), and son, Peter, played by Kodi-Smit McPhee.
In a new video from the Netflix Playlist Series, Campion and Greenwood discuss the score and their collaborative process.
While Campion trusted the composer entirely, she calls the creative process a happy time as the two swapped ideas back and forth, exchanging emails and conversations.
Campion says, “He thought a lot about instruments and creating a palette for the instruments in the way that designers often do.”
In the film, expected to be a major awards contender and best picture player this season, Phil plays the banjo, but Greenwood didn’t use an actual banjo for that sound. Greenwood wanted to tap into the darker side of the instrument, which would almost mirror Phil’s personality. Greenwood says he took a cello and learned to play it like a banjo, fingerpicking at the strings. Says Greenwood, “The result is something that gives you a nice confusion — it’s a sound you recognize, but it’s not a style that you’re familiar with. So it’s familiar and unfamiliar, at the same time.”
What helped Greenwood even more was Campion’s prep process as she gathered her crew months in advance. Greenwood who says he doesn’t do much film music tells Campion, “We had the fun of talking music and instruments before and while you were shooting.”
Haunted piano plays in the film, symbolic of Rose and her social awkwardness. It later becomes symbolic of her mental unraveling. “It ended up being inhuman in how it sounds,” says Greenwood.
He notes the shots of the wilderness and mountains make everything look foreboding and alienating, but they enhance the masculine aspect of everything around the characters.
Watch the conversation below, and learn about “The Power of the Dog” here.
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