Bruno Coulais interview: ‘Wolfwalkers’ composer
“Wolfwalkers” is the third and final film in director Tomm Moore‘s Irish folklore trilogy that contains “The Secret of Kells” (2009) and “Song of the Sea” (2014). And it’s no coincidence that Bruno Coulais scored all of them. “I think 12 years ago it was the first with ‘The Secret of Kells and it was evident that we were meant to work together,” Coulais tells Gold Derby at our Meet the BTL Experts: Film Composers panel (watch above). “I love the mood of his films and the third one is a masterpiece, I think. I’m very proud to work with him.”
The film, which like its predecessors is hand-drawn, follows Robyn (voice of Honor Kneafsey), a young English girl in 1650 Ireland whose father Bill (voice of Sean Bean) is tasked to hunt down wolves under the orders of an Oliver Cromwell-esque Lord Protector (voice of Simon McBurney). One day, Robyn befriends Mebh (voice of Eva Whittaker), a fearless wolfwalker, discovering the magic of the wolves and becoming a wolfwalker herself.
Moore, who co-directed the film with Ross Stewart, gave Coulais a lot of freedom in composing the score. “I think it’s important to discover a film without music. I think temp music is the enemy of the composer and of a film,” Coulais says. “The good thing with an animation movie is the process is very long, so you can make a lot of experimentation and try to [write] music unique to this film. … They let me very free and I worked by chronology from the top.”
Coulais also hooked up with Kila, the Irish band with whom he collaborated on the previous films, which was a “marvelous experience.” The score is a blend of traditional Celtic sounds with some contemporary influences, mirroring Robyn straddling between the two worlds of Puritanism and the mysticism of the wilderness.
“‘Wolfwalkers’ is a film about metamorphosis between wolves and humans, and I tried with the music to obtain that kind of effect with an orchestra but also with this Irish band,” Coulais explains. “I think the magic aspect of the film was very strong for me and I tried to translate this with the music, especially with voices. I love using voices, children’s voices. … I think if you want to be scary with music, sometimes it’s more scary to use something of shyness — children’s voices. Sometimes it’s more scary than a big orchestra. And the magic aspect also comes from these voices.”
Working with Kila again was “very exciting,” Coulais shares. “They don’t read music, but I can sing a theme and immediately they’re able to play it. They play a lot of instruments … and I have a small orchestra. Scoring music for film for me is an opening on the world. It’s wonderful to work with an orchestra but also with that kind of musicians.”