With Exodus: Gods and Kings due to come out in four months (and three days), it’s time for the filmmakers to put the final pieces together — and one of those pieces is the music. The French movie mag Première got to visit a recording session, where the Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias was overseeing his score for the film, and along the way the magazine reveals a few details about the film itself.
The author of the article spends a fair chunk of his intro marveling at the history and secrecy of the Abbey Road studio, which is where the score is being recorded — but none of that really has anything to do with the film itself.
When the author finally gets to Iglesias himself, he notes that the composer — who, in addition to his longtime collaboration with Pedro Almodóvar, has also been Oscar-nominated for The Constant Gardener, The Kite Runner and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — is better-known for “intimate and introspective” music rather than the “thunderous” music one might associate with, say, Hans Zimmer.
Then the author reports what he saw on the screen behind the orchestra (as translated by Google, with a few minor touch-ups and paragraph breaks added by me):
First scene: probably towards the end of the film, Moses bearded and blackened with dust contemplates Hebrew funeral pyres. The music rises. Chills. Flutes with antique accents, seductive. Soft strings that lead us to elegiac choruses. We began to dream of a completely silent film, only told through images and music.
Another scene: “we go to track the army for the battle ahead” asked one of the assistants to Nicolas, the conductor. Ramses prepares for a battle against the Hebrews, and Joel Edgerton, troubled look, contemplates the desolate landscape of the Canary Islands which stand in for Egypt. The strings become anxious and – BLAM – percussion lands, steady and overpowering, like the march of an army.New scene: an overlap. Earlier in the film, Rameses orders his underlings to raid the slave quarters. We go from the council chamber to the dusty dirt streets. Again the ancient flutes, followed by an explosion of martial choruses while horsemen gallop on the screen. The music expresses the transition from inside to outside, from the intimate to the epic, all in continuity.
Hebrew funeral pyres? Interesting. Perhaps they are Hebrew soldiers who died while fighting the Egyptians (or the Amalekites, or…). Or perhaps they are the Hebrews who were executed by Moses and his fellow Levites as punishment for worshiping the golden calf…? The Judeo-Christian tradition has always favoured burial, rather than cremation, so this feels a bit like an anachronism to me (à la the cavalry charges) — but then again, the Bible does describe the ancient Hebrews burning the remains of the people they punished as a sort of final desecration (e.g. Joshua 7).
Incidentally, the current article alludes to a set report that was published in Première magazine back in March. You can check it out, along with my comments, here.