Philippe Arber’s The Guardian of the Light is a short film from 2015 in which Camille (Vanessa A. King) has to “find the courage to overcome her inner fears”. She has withdrawn into a world of dreams and stories after the untimely death of her father. Driven away from her home to her father’s old study in the country, Camille soon finds herself in a fantasy world where she must face a sorceress who has taken all light from the land of Palantia. The remainder of the film follows Camille as she battles her own demons as well as the evil witch. The Guardian of the Light is given a memorable score by Jonas Grauer.
Grauer’s score oozes fantasy genre score ideas, with ethereal vocals, pizzicato strings and tinkling celeste (or is it a glockenspiel, I always find it hard to distinguish between the two) featuring throughout, and giving the music a dreamy, fantasy feel. The music itself is based largely around a very catchy main theme, and additional darker, atonal passages for when Camille’s quest takes a more difficult turn. Grauer’s central theme is set out in the opening track, “The Beginning”, where it’s played a number of times, each time with varying orchestrations. It’s the sort of theme that, once heard, became firmly embedded in my mind and I found myself absentmindedly humming it throughout the day when I first listened to the score. Perhaps there’s too much reliance on this theme in the score; we’re never far from hearing another brief or expanded statement. But Grauer does tap into the versatility of the theme to good effect: bold statements of the whole theme, firstly, when Camille stridently sets off for her father’s study (“The Beginning”) and, secondly (later in the film), when Camille sets off in earnest on her quest to thwart Shin, the evil witch, (“Tales of Palantia”) are two notable examples of how this theme captures the resolve of Camille. The theme’s statement played on celeste (“Entering The Witch’s House”) showcases a more restrained and delicate rendition of Grauer’s theme. It’s interesting to side-note that, for the climax of the film, the composer elected to dispense with any sort of a bold, triumphant quote of the central theme and, instead, used sustained wordless female voices, bold percussion and brass for the final showdown between Camille and Shin (“Entering The Witch’s House”).
The composer is able to effectively turn the score much darker when required (remember, the evil sorceress has captured all the light in the land). Camille’s escape from the woods that she finds herself in when she first arrives in her fantasy world (“Tales of Palantia”), and her emergence into “The Haunted Forest” soon after she begins her quest, are appropriately eerie: off-kilter tremolo strings, low woodwinds and brass colours, plus descending brass tones, all give the darker passages an evil, foreboding and actively threatening feel. It worth pointing out here though that, to me, the music seems far too prominent and loud in the mix during these darker sequences. This, together with some less-than-threatening action sequences (particularly in the latter half of “The Haunted Forest”), gives rise to a “disconnect” between music and image. It’s understandable for the filmmakers to want to showcase the talents of the composer, but I feel that they’ve done this without wholly considering the impact on the final film.
Putting this minor criticism aside, Grauer’s score for The Guardian of the Light is a very memorable listening experience, one that succeeds particularly well as a stand-alone listen. On listening, there are a couple of references to other film scores that do come to mind. Firstly, there’s a strong parallel between Grauer’s score (particularly the central theme) and the fantasy scoring of Danny Elfman (a sequence in “Escaping Reality” is a good example). The ethereal wordless female vocals, prominent use of celeste and some of the string structures underlying the central theme, all evoke a recollection of Elfman’s music. This may not be particularly surprising when you consider that writer/director Philippe Arber has said that Elfman’s Alice In Wonderland was a strong influence when he was writing the script. Also, the use of ethereal vocals, together with seemingly-familiar brass and string phrases give passages of Grauer’s score (e.g., “The Beginning”, “Escaping Reality”) a definite Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings feel (unsurprising given the movie’s subject matter). Personally, I don’t have an issue with these musical references (whether they are intentional or not); they are just an additional aspect of the overall score to enjoy.
On the whole, Grauer’s score is very positive experience. It’s obvious that the filmmakers were more than happy with the results of their collaboration. The Guardian of the Light is certainly recommended to those not familiar with Grauer’s work, and I would suggest that the central theme will linger in the memory long after the album has finished. The Guardian of the Light is available to buy at most online digital stores and audio clips can be found HERE. Philippe Arber’s short film can be watched in full HERE.
- The Beginning (5:02)
- Escaping Reality (4:26)
- Tales of Palantia (5:58)
- The Haunted Forest (2:13)
- Entering The Witch’s House (5:59)
- The Guardian of the Light (3:12)
Running Time: 26:53
iMusician Digital (2015)