Gabriel Yared (‘The Life Ahead’ composer): ‘To write simple music is quite challenging’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Academy Award-winning composer Gabriel Yared was forced to take an unconventional approach to crafting the score to the new film “The Life Ahead,” starring Sophia Loren. While Yared typically prefers to join a project early in its run, director Edoardo Ponti brought a draft of the film to Yared’s residence in Paris after shooting was complete. Still, the composer was struck by the emotional journey of the film. “I was really immediately captivated and overwhelmed by the story, by the characters, by the performances,” says Yared in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby. “It has an emotional depth and also a melancholia that attracted me straight away.” Watch the interview above.

Yared was tasked with the challenge of composing themes for two very different characters — the haunted Madame Rosa (Loren), and the youthful Momo (newcomer Ibrahima Gueye). “Those two people are so different from each other,” the Oscar-winning composer (“The English Patient,” 1998) observes. Yet by the end, “you feel that they are not so different after all.” Rosa’s theme was inspired by Yiddish music to reflect her identity as a Holocaust survivor. We often see her listening to the music of her youth, so Yared crafted a theme that had “a mixture of very painful and very happy at the same time.” Meanwhile, Momo’s theme is more innocent and “cheeky,” with a simple whistling motif.

The score is used quite sparingly in the film, but this ends up making the themes land more effectively when they do show up. The difficulty for Yared was in writing a score that was simple yet effective in expressing what the characters could not. “To write simple music is quite challenging,” admits the composer. “This film wanted to have a score very delicate and very gentle and not too much on the nose, so it has to be moving without being too lyrical.”

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