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The Secret Garden
  • Composed by Dario Marianelli
  • Decca / 52m

The fifth movie adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (and released 101 years after the first!), this latest version is directed by Marc Munden and stars Dixie Egerickx in the lead role as Mary Lennox, with grown-up support coming from Colin Firth and Julie Walters. Originally scheduled for release in cinemas earlier in 2020, it has gone the way of so many other films and is currently in the process of being rolled-out straight to streaming services.

Director Munden has worked largely on television previously – most frequently on rather dark projects with little in common with this classic children’s story; for his first (intended to be) big-screen movie he has turned to the ever-classy Dario Marianelli to provide the score, no stranger to this type of movie.

Dario Marianelli

The score is a delight: rooted in the classic period drama sound, it’s light and gentle and really very lovely. The opening tracks have a sense of distant magic to them: colours come from chimes, piano, celesta, harp, often with strings accompanying. The composer hints at his main theme throughout but doesn’t fully reveal it until the brief but pivotal “Climbing the Wall”, where it really soars for the first time.

Immediately following this, all sorts of florid touches are applied in the orchestration of “The Garden”, which is a colourful exhibition of childish exuberance blended with a lovely portrait of nature. Later, the innocuously-titled “Colin Gets Up” is another highlight, with choppy strings leading the charge on another delightfully large take on the main theme.

That theme is the main expression of Mary’s excitement and joy; there’s also a significant secondary theme which appears all over the place and seems to be a more general way for Marianelli to represent essentially magic and wonder. It’s not really the melody that shines but rather the absolutely charming way it is usually orchestrated, with those chimes and so on that I mentioned earlier. A standalone moment of great quality comes in “The Hidden Letters”, which is exciting and full of spirit.

Anyone who is familiar with the story will know that it is not without its sadness and while I wouldn’t say that side of things plays a large part in the music, there are certainly a few tracks in which the composer takes a somewhat reflective emotional tone – “The Garden Wilts” not surprisingly the prime example, first using sparse strings as a kind of quiet horror before a particularly delicate piano solo tugs at the heartstrings. The darkest moment comes in “The Fire”, the main theme twisted to the other end of the emotional spectrum from where it has been to this point.

After Marianelli’s fine score, the album concludes with an original song (named for the film) by Aurora which itself is rather delightful. It’s an easy recommendation: classy and indeed classic film music for a film like this, uncomplicated but rich and rewarding. Marianelli is a natural choice for this type of project and, really, you can’t go wrong.

Rating: **** | |

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