DEN HENGTE MANNEN – Mark Rayen Candasamy


Original Review by Alan RogersDen Hengte Mannen

A child custody drama that develops thriller tendencies in the latter stages, Den Hengte Mannen (The Hanged Man) is a Norwegian drama from 2011 which by all accounts received a very limited release even in Norway. Starring Per Jonas Lie and Silje Aas Meyer as couple Jon and Hedvig, we see the consequences for the family after the collapse of their marriage. Hedvig, a local fortune teller, has become increasingly eccentric and this has driven Jon leave the family home to live with his mother, taking his son with him. Hedvig, however, seems willing to stop at nothing in order to re-establish the life that was set out for her in her Tarot cards.

The score for Den Hengte Mannen – by Norwegian composer Mark Rayen Candasamy – opens with a two minute cue that acts as an overture for the score as a whole. “Den Hengte Mannen” sets out a series of “motivic ideas” that form the basis for the remainder of the score. A repeating four-note trill played on violins opens the score and establishes an unsettling mood which is exacerbated by the addition of a second motif comprising of four dissonant piano chords. There then follows a statement of a faintly disorientating swirling string motif that is overlaid with off-kilter clarinet. All these various elements establishes that the film is not going to be a happy one. These motivic statements play over a relatively neutral scene of Jon driving through town and add the music adds a strong sense of foreboding, complementing the bleakness of the cinematography. Track 3, “Juletrejakt”, features the first statement of a cheerful, more completely formed melodic line on flutes which is associated with Jon and the relationship he has with his son, Alexander. We have to wait until the final track on the album, “Alexanders Tema”, before we hear what could be described as a full-blown theme. Only briefly heard within the score itself (e.g., “Ultimatum”), “Alexanders Tema” – sung beautifully by Kathrine Gross Tendal – is a fitting resolution to the score as well as an appropriate finale to the film itself. Thematic, musical and with a sense of release it draws the score to a satisfying conclusion.

One of the interesting aspects of Den Hengte Mannen is how the composer takes the various motivic ideas of the score and manipulates them via changes in orchestration, tempo and/or by adding carefully chosen solo instruments. “I Skogen”, for example, is a melancholic piece highlighting the loneliness of Alexander as he walks in some woods. The music here is a transformation of the repeating string motif first heard in the opening cue. As heard in “I Skogen”, the upper strings having been removed from the original statement of the motif and the tempo has been slowed down. The additional of a sombre violin solo completes the motif’s transformation. “Forførelsen”, a pivotal scene in the film, takes the four-note trill string motif from “Den Hengte Mannen” and transforms it into a musical representation of seduction of Jon by Hedvig. This track also features a statement of the melodic line associated with Jon which up to this point in the film has represented Jon and his bond with his son (e.g., “Juletrejakt”). However, in “Forførelsen”, a sleazy-styled statement of the melody on solo violin highlights the momentary collapse of Jon’s defences and, at the same time, the potential risk to the father and son relationship.

Den Hengte Mannen is definitely a score worth seeking out but, for many, this is likely to be a score that is admired more than enjoyed. Yes, there is a proportion of the score that is melodic and thematic. But, the main impetus for the tone and shape of the score is to establish a general style that complements the film – the goal for all music of this genre. The exclusion of instruments such as oboe, bassoon and all of the brass section, the use of fragmentary motivic ideas and their manipulation through various orchestrational and tempo changes challenges the listener to try to understand the ideas of the composer rather than to just sit back and enjoy the themes.

Candasamy’s score is sparsely spotted in director Stephan A. Hergel’s bleakly-filmed movie (are there any other types of Scandinavian films?) and features only occasional reference to full-blown themes. Instead, the music concentrates rather on supporting the feel of the film by using and manipulating a handful of key motivic ideas (in stark contrast to the composer’s thematic score for his previous collaboration with the composer, the comedy-drama Bak Fasaden (2008)). The overall dark and melancholic feel to the score is countered by the constantly inventive use of the self-imposed palette of instruments used and the close miked recording makes for a vibrant listening experience. This latter situation does have its down-side though and this is evidenced by the significant levels of ambient noise from the orchestra which can be quite intrusive and distracting. However, this is a worthwhile album and is a good example of an up-and-coming composer delivering a worthy score with limited means. The album is available as a digital download at a variety of online stores.

Audio samples can be found HERE.

Rating: ***

  1. Den Hengte Mannen (2:06)
  2. Druidenes Hus (2:28)
  3. Juletrejakt (2:21)
  4. Jula er Over (2:04)
  5. Forvarselet (0:44)
  6. Det Lover Jeg (0:39)
  7. Forførelsen (3:58)
  8. Amen (1:27)
  9. I Skogen (1:37)
  10. Det Var Han (1:59)
  11. Mistanken (2:35)
  12. Stekepanna (0:58)
  13. Karl På Tur (1:41)
  14. Ultimatum (1:37)
  15. Finale (0:55)
  16. Alexanders Tema (2:48)

Running Time: 30:33

Normann Records (2011)

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Comments

  1. …even though I mentioned in another comment I am no fan of digital purchases (as opposed to physical CDs), there’s a distinct advantage to being able to purchase separate tracks: I do like the main theme to this score a lot.
    But I was less enthused about the rest of the score.
    It’s simply not my style: I like bold, robust thematic work.
    The review gives an honest and comprehensive summary of what to expect, and I find it matches my own experience. So well done!

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