Written and directed by Spanish film-maker Juan Antonio Espigares, Fuga is a multi-award winning animated film that tells the story of Sara, a young girl who arrives at the Saint Cecilia Conservatory to pursue her dream of becoming a concert violinist. However, her musical ability soon draws the attention of a rival who will stop at nothing to ensure that she, and not Sara, is chosen as the soloist at an upcoming concert. Released to the film festival circuit in 2012, Fuga is a fantastic little film, a mesmerizing mix of visual styles that includes detailed computer and roughly-drawn animation that are combined within the same scenes and offering a variety of differing perspectives to the unfolding story. This potentially of-putting switching back and forth between various animation techniques actually draws the viewer into the story, making you eager to discover the significance of animation style choices as well as to follow the thread of the story. Having composed scores for a number of short films and, more recently music for several episodes for the Spanish TV show Frágiles, director turned to composer Arturo Díez Boscovich to compose an evocative orchestral score. Boscovich may be best known to the film music community for his strong involvement with the International Music Film Festival in Úbeda and Cordoba (including the Spartacus suite from the Alex North tribute at the festival in 2010). Boscovich has crafted a score that stands admirably beside the visuals, using the talents of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga to create a score that is centred around a beautiful primary theme.
The score for Fuga is a nod to the grand orchestral film score where the music is based strong themes (in this case a theme for the main character Sara), where expressive music told a story including using variations of the thematic material to help drive the narrative of the image. In the particular case of Fuga, the music plays a central role in the narrative since the film contains no dialogue. The stand-out track of the score (and the film) is the final track of the score, “Sara’s Vals”. This cue scores the climactic scene of the film which reveals the final twist to the film (and which, I for one, did not see coming!) “Sara’s Vals” begins with a statement of Sara’s theme on solo violin. Although the use of solo violin links the music with the character of Sara, the use of this specific instrument also emphasises an element of regret and sadness contained within the theme itself (and which is a strong emotion of the film). Sara’s theme then becomes the basis of a waltz played by full orchestra and Boscovich’s music does an excellent job of mirroring the reveal of the plot twist – a testament to the skill of the composer (and no doubt, the film-makers also). As a side note: Michael Giacchino is quoted as saying that this waltz “is one of the most beautiful waltzes I have ever heard. Praise indeed! This theme appears at various points throughout the score; there’s a strong variation of the theme in “Finale” where a slowed tempo and the use of brass ensemble gives the theme a soaring feel (entirely appropriate at this point in the narrative) and there is a brief fragment of the theme – again on solo violin – links the previous scene of the violin soloist auditions with the significant plot development which is about to take place – and which will affect Sara’s future (“In The Room”). As briefly mentioned, Sara’s theme also forms the basis of the audition piece played by Sara and which alerts her rival of the the threat that Sara will be to her being chosen as the concert soloist (“Violin Concerto”). Soloists Nicolae Faureanu and Jozef Horvath deserve praise at this point for their excellent solos during the audition and concert sequences.
This wonderful waltz theme is in stark contrast to the music that opens the film. The pre-credit “Prologue” is a dark ominous piece of music that is atonal in style, underscoring as it does a violent and nightmarish sequence – the meaning of which will become plain later on in the film. Guttural brass and low woodwinds, low-end piano and high fluttering flutes all combine to create a unsettling soundscape to accompany the arresting visuals. Combined together, the music and images grab the attention of the viewer right from the start. The music heard in “Prologue” is an early example of how strong Boscovich’s score is at complimenting Espigares’ world. Other examples include music heard in “The Arrival”, where Sara first arrives at the Conservatory. After hearing a solemn horn fanfare that accompanies Sara’s first meeting with the faceless custodians of the music school, a harp glissando marks Sara’s entry into the school itself and the tone of the track changes from being bright and optimistic and becomes quite mysterious – almost exotic. Continuing glissandi, dreamy string fragments and repeating haunting woodwind phrases build an otherworldly atmosphere that echoes Sara’s unfamiliarity with her new and unfamiliar environment. This switch in tone also highlights the viewer’s uncertainty as to the significance of the varied use of animation styles used.
Boscovich’s score is accomplished at capturing in his music the smallest of details as well as conveying the broader ideas of film. The phrasing of an oboe solo to coincide with the appearance of weird patterns on the walls as Sara moves through the Conservatory and a tinkling piano accompaniment to the appearance of a child-like rendition of a figure (“The Arrival”) and a single triangle strike as Sara brushes against a bench in a corridor (“Sara’s Vals”) are all musical devices that are perhaps missed on first viewing the film but which are subsequently seen as signposts to clues that help explain the story to those who have seen the film once and who immediately want to watch it again once the twist is revealed.
Arturo Díez Boscovich’s score for Fuga is excellent. Sara’s theme is a joy to listen to and is very memorable. It’s adaptable to the various needs of the film which, I think, marks it out as being of superior quality. The score as a whole is a great achievement; a grand orchestral score that’s expressive and which uses the thematic material simply but also powerfully. Fuga is one of those scores that encourages the listener to hunt down the film (I was lucky enough to receive a promotional copy of the score a year or two back). And the film and its story have qualities that compel you to revisit it again and again in order to hear the music in context once more and to try and grasp all that composer and film-makers have done within the film. (I must have watched the film 7-8 until now and I am still seeing and hearing new things!) There are times when image and music combine in such a way on projects that the results are breathtaking. I believe that Fuga is one of these noteworthy times.
Having been part of the film festival circuit for a couple of years since its release in 2012, Fuga is now available to watch in full HERE. Everyone can now enjoy the wonderful animated together with Boscovich’s impressive score. With the film being devoid of any dialogue, the music for Fuga can enjoyed whilst watching the movie. Hopefully though, as there are lots of ways in which to make music available today, Boscovich’s score will receive some sort of digital release at some point in the near future.
- Prologue (0:53)
- The Arrival (2:01)
- In The Room (1:32)
- Violin Concerto (1:49)
- Finale (1:14)
- Adagio (0:55)
- Sara’s Vals (3:39)
Running Time: 12:06
Composer Promo (2012)