For the Danish period drama A Royal Affair, French composer Cyrille Aufort (SACEM) collaborated with his countryman, Oscar winner Gabriel Yared, on a score of grand scope and thematic beauty. We asked him how he used music to help connect modern audiences with the kings, courtiers and lovers of the 18th century Danish royal court.
A Royal Affair director Nikolaj Arcel commented that he didn't want to "swell pointlessly on the big official events, the fancy dresses and hairdos, or the way the food was served." Did you come into the scoring process with that same idea?
Actually, we never thought about that. Talking about the music, Nikolaj used to say: "The more thematical you are, the more every track has its own small melodic or thematical idea, the happier I will be." Nikolaj loves romantic music, beautiful themes...that's what he wanted for the film.
The film takes place in 18th century Denmark. Did you use any elements of European music from that time period in your score?
18th century European music was not a reference for us. On the one hand, we wanted to have a romantic touch in the score (closer to the 19th century). On the other hand we tried to bring something else to the film, some kind of modern quality to it that sometimes goes a little bit against the images. We wanted music to tell its own story.
How did you capture the insanity of King Christian VII with your music?
We didn't want to overstate the madness of king Christian. The character was so clearly defined that there was no need to emphasize (him) with any music.
Gabriel Yared very rarely collaborates on scores. How did you and he end up working together?
Gabriel was approached by Nikolaj Arcel at an early stage. He met Gabriel in Paris and got well along with him. Gabriel knew my work and appreciated it, thus he proposed [us] working together on that project. Between us, there's a real harmony and osmosis.
How did you and Gabriel split up the work? Were there scenes that you scored and scenes he scored, or were the two of you working together most of the time?
Most of the time, we shared ideas when working on a cue. Gabriel was bringing his themes, I was coming up with other themes and we started to build the scene, each of us putting one's shoulder to the wheel.
What was new or challenging for you about composing A Royal Affair?
The most challenging element was to move between the different aspects of the film - the love story, the political context, the characters, the drama. One of the most challenging scenes was the execution scene. Nikolaj wanted music to slowly build and develop Struensee's way to the scaffold. That was the main difficulty: keeping the feeling of something slow, reflecting the way the character feels; from silent breathing and pauses, making it crescendo over six minutes to a very tragic ending.
A Royal Affair is now in theaters. Find out more at www.magpictures.com/aroyalaffair.
ABOUT CYRILLE AUFORT: Born in Lyon, France in 1974, Cyrille Aufort won first prize many times over at the National Conservatoires of Paris and Lyon. He started his career as an arranger, working for artists such as Michel Fugain, Serge Lama and Bernard Lavilliers, then began composing for film documentaries and movie shorts, quickly moving on to orchestration and original scores for cinema. The first film for which he composed music was 9A directed by Reza Rezaï. He scored the music for Hell, directed by Bruno Chiche, for Splice, directed by Vincenzo Natali, L'Empire Du Milieu Du Sud, directed by Jacques Perrin and Eric Deroo, and L'âge De Raison directed by Yann Samuell. Aufort also works in television and as an arranger for the likes of Charles Aznavour and Johnny Halliday. He regularly collaborates with the "Basse-Normandie Esemble" scoring music for silent movies. Read Cyrille Aufort's credits on his IMDB page.