The first of the three BAFTA Awards won by “The Shape of Water” went to composer Alexandre Desplat for his original score; the film also won Best Director (Guillermo del Toro) and Best Production Design. This marked the third win for the French tunesmith from eight BAFTA nominations over the past 15 years. He also prevailed for “The King’s Speech” in 2011 and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2015. He won his only Oscar for the latter and is a strong favorite to pick up a bookend this year.
During his acceptance speech, he referenced his experience working with del Toro on his vision for the film and made mention of recording the score with the London Symphony Orchestra in the capital’s famed Abbey Road studios. Backstage, the way he spoke about making this music was full of passion, energy, love and verve. He encouraged us journalists to ask in-depth questions about the specific technical demands of composing music but, alas, none of us had the expertise to do so.
Desplat readily admits he worries about the dangers of repeating himself. “I’d be ruined if I did another ‘Girl With the Pearl Earring,’ another ‘King’s Speech.’ You must always change!” To that end, he concentrates on how he sees and feels his music. “It’s tangible to me, I can see it happening, working. I can physically bring one part forward, another backward. That’s how music works to composers.”
As for his work on this film, he regards “the music as the voice of Eliza and the creature and there is a lot of options for the composer to play with that. But there is only so much you can do because if you start mimicking what they’re doing, it doesn’t get the film very far and it doesn’t get the music very far. You must always keep in my mind that the movie is a love story, that’s all you have to keep in mind. Keep the love and the longing for love, the impossible love, running in the heart of the score.”