A short film set during World War II, director Philips Stevens’ By The Winter Sea follows the progress of Ada (Helen Victor) who leaves her home in London to join the Women’s Land Army, to work on a farm on the Lincolnshire coast. She soon realises that the life of a “Land Girl” is not the one portrayed on the posters but with the help of fellow Londoner and Land Girl Jean (Sarah Whitehouse), she eventually falls in love with her new life. Danish composer Jesper Hansen continues his association with the Lincolnshire-based film production company Red Dog Film and provides a sparse but tender score based around a small ensemble of fiddle and piano with embellishments (e.g., harp, snare drum). The first main component to the score is an Celtic/folk-inspired theme played on solo fiddle (“Main Title – The Journey”). First heard over shots of a bleak grey coast of the North Sea, the theme has a mournful quality about it and its appearance of the theme at various points in the film suggests an influence of the new life (represented by the sea) on the characters even when there is no visual reference to the sea. In the cue “Arrival To Lincolnshire”, for example, Ada’s waiting to be picked up for the final leg of her journey to the farm where she has been stationed and the appearance of the solo fiddle when she gets into the car seems to signal the “point of no return” for her adventure from town to countryside.
“Arrival To Lincolnshire” also features a lovely theme for solo piano. Constructed in such a way as to give the sense of innocence to Ada, this theme – and the use of solo piano in more hesitant ideas and motifs (e.g., “First Day of Work”) – mirrors Ada’s journey from the city to rural Lincolnshire as well as her arrival to and settling down in her new and unfamiliar environment. As Ada’s confidence builds the piano line then becomes more animated, determined and happier (“Home By The Winter Sea”). The juxtaposition of both the piano and solo fiddle in the score echoes the various experiences of Ada as she comes to terms with her new surroundings as well as her inner turmoil during her initial doubts and subsequent embracing of her new life. This acceptance of her situation is then reflected in the score by the end of the film as the solo fiddle (and the sea) becomes associated with Ada. Read the rest of this entry »