2018 • Music – Original Score • Backstage

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90th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: Music – Original Score

SPEECH BY: Alexandre Desplat
FILM: “THE SHAPE OF WATER”

Q. Can you talk a little bit about del Toro and how he guided you in composing the score for THE SHAPE OF WATER?

A. Well, Guillermo, you know, he brings everybody in his team together behind him like a ‑‑ you know, like a king with his knights, and is total bonding. I don’t know. There’s a magic about him that makes us all want to be at our top ‑‑ at our best. And for the music, you know, we discussed a few things, and very early on, I could feel that everything was open. I could have said, “We’re going to record 76 trombones.” He would have said, “Oh, yes. Great idea.” But we went another route with, you know, these many flutes and the whistling and ‑‑ but every moment of the trajectory of the composition was submitted to him, and he was always benevolent and enthusiastic and happy, and it was a marvelous experience. One of my rare, beautiful, beautiful experience.

Q. [Speaks in French.]
A. [Speaks in French.]

Q. Can you talk a little bit about finding that magic that really brings the fairy tale with the true romance of the movie together and the music that you did so excellently?

A. Thank you. Well, you know, the ‑‑ very early on, it was ‑‑ it was clear for Guillermo and I that the music should be just the voice of love because we didn’t want to do sci‑fi or danger. There are some moments of fear later or chase, you know. But the most thing is to ‑‑ was to find the soul, the soul of the feeling is love, the love between Elisa and Octavia, the love between Elisa and Giles, the love between Elisa and the creature, and the non‑love of Strickland and his wife, the non‑love of Strickland and the [inaudible], the people around him, unless they’re white and military. So, it was ‑‑ it was ‑‑ the line to follow all the way. And by trying to add to that a sense of longing because you know when the person you love is hurting you, there’s a pain in your chest. And the water, because water is always present from the bathtub to the ‑‑ to the sea, feeling this ‑‑ you know, when you swim in tropical water, you barely feel the water on your skin. And I just tried to figure out that with the instrumentation, the way the melody plays in waves, the chord changes, the softness of the instrumentation, the flutes, the whistle on the accordion. It’s all instruments with air. You know, they all have something very organic. So it’s ‑‑ I guess it’s a combination of that.

Q. [Speaks in French.] We say that creativity comes out of conflict sometimes. Can you share the few times where you two had to battle to find the right thing to do?

A. We never had to battle. Never had. There was not one moment of battle. It was all as the film, flowing and smooth and beautiful. There was some tweaks, you know, when the orchestra plays, I’d be [inaudible] on symphony sometimes, there’s something that can be a bit less, a bit more, but it’s, you know, micro things. And, you know, the way ‑‑ the way the composer works for film, he works for a collective art form. He doesn’t work for himself to be played in a concert hall. He’s dedicated to an object which is not his object. He’s just part of it. So, constraint ‑‑ constraint is something that I live with ‑‑ I’ve learned to live with every day. And it’s not easy, but you learn how to do it. And in that frame that you ‑‑ you give and you try to have fireworks.

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