- Composed by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschke
- Sony Classical / 2016 / 49m
An Awards-friendly film if ever there was one, Lion tells the true story of a man who – as a five-year-old boy in India – lost his brother, stayed on a train to faraway Calcutta, got taken into an orphanage and ultimately adopted by an Australian couple. As an adult, he starts looking for his birth familiar online. (I guess you know the ending, else they wouldn’t have made a film out of it.) The score is by Australian one-time piano prodigy and now composer Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschke, a nom-de-plume of German composer and pianist Volker Bertelmann. The pair are actually friends – though director Garth Davis didn’t know that when he hired them – and the original plan for them to score the two halves of the film separately soon evaporated and they worked on the score collaboratively. Given the composers’ backgrounds it perhaps isn’t a surprise that the piano has a role to play, but their music is for the most part rather straight modern orchestral dramatic film music with electronic enhancement – what makes it rise above the crowd to an extent is that the orchestral writing is generally very interesting, with all sorts of textures – often quite dreamlike – extracted acoustically in a way you know a lot of film composers would struggle to achieve.
The score is generally quietly dignified, at its best in its delicate main theme, an emotional piece for piano and strings, heard fully in the opening score track “Lion Theme” and in an exquisite variation later in “Orphans”. There’s deliberately no ethnic tint to the music – the composers viewed this as a human story and his Indian origin was irrelevant. I do wonder though whether that would have given it a bit of flavour that it generally lacks – it’s all very pleasant, the album is perfectly nice to listen to, but it doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. I lose interest in the less melodic, moodier portions, but thankfully there’s not too much of that, and it’s certainly nice enough as far as it goes and at its peak it’s very good.