In 1936, the people of Spain democratically elected a socialist government who at times were referred to as republicans, it was not that long however before unrest began to rise within the country and a coup was carried out by a group of right-wing nationalist generals who were intent on ousting their leader and create their own government. This was not an overnight attempt at gaining power and turned into a long, cruel and particularly bloody civil war that lasted for several years. Soon the Russians started to assist the government of the country and both Italy and Germany decided to combine their efforts as the Axis Powers and started to send arms and support to the forces that were fighting on the side of General Franco, who’s nationalist forces eventually gained the upper hand and ultimately won the war, if anyone wins in these type of conflicts. The town of GUERNICA or GERNIKA as it is called in the movie and also gives the film its title as well, was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe and was made notoriously famous by Pablo Picasso’s gigantic mural which was also named after the town. The movie opens with American news reporter Henry portrayed by James D’Arcy finding it increasingly difficult to report back accurately the events that are taking place in the country because of heavy censorship by the Republican authorities. His reports are altered and tampered with making them no more than propaganda essays in favour of the republicans. The reporter becomes caught up in a web of deceit that begins to affect not only him but his partner Teresa played by Maria Valverde who is one of the censors. Just as the authorities are about to close in on him the air raids on GERNIKA begin. This is a rather tragic and bitter sweet storyline that although does have some romantic interludes is essentially an accurate telling of the events that led up to the barbaric and incessant bombing and also depicts the actual relentless blitz upon the town and the affect upon its helpless inhabitants. The movie is a moving and well-made account of this particular event in history and is surprisingly impartial not once depicting either side as being good or bad. The musical score as one can imagine is powerful to say the least and filled with drama, tension and action material, it also however possesses a number of highly emotive and passionate sounding compositions that further elevate the action on screen lending their poignancy and potent weight to the proceedings. Fernando Velazquez has over a fairly short period of time become one of Spain’s most respected and sought after composers of film music, he works not only in his native Spain but also scores movies that are produced in Hollywood etc.
His scores for movies such as THE ORPHAN, THE LAST DAYS, DEVIL, CRIMSON PEAK, HERCULES, MAMA and even the horror spoof PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES were met with much enthusiasm and praise from collectors of film music and critics alike the latter I think was a case of the score being far superior to the movie it was created for. It is probably true to say that it was his score for THE IMPOSSIBLE which drew attention to his ample talents as a composer of music for film and television projects. GERNIKA is in my opinion one of his best soundtracks, filled with inspiring themes and memorable compositions it is a score that seems to get under one’s skin as it were, there is just something about this work that oozes class and radiates an aura that is overflowing with highly charged and commanding musical passages. The CD opens with TERESA/PRESS OFFICE a meandering piano acts as a background to strings and woodwind that pick out a pleasant and melancholy theme that is romantically laced but at the same time seems to hint at tension or apprehension.
Track number 2, I ‘VE SEEN WAR, is too a low key affair, with dark sounding strings opening the cue, these soon segue into lighter but still sombre strings that are underlined by woods. The composer also puts to good use brass and choir within the score which create a sense of unease and turmoil within certain cues, as in BACK FROM THE FRONT/THE PICTURE which is track number 4, this is initially a low key piece which develops and builds into a driving action composition which is dominated by horns and strings that are punctuated and supported by percussion. Highlights for me if indeed there are any stand out cues, simply because the entire score is a delight, include, the tender and haunting TERESA’S FAMILY FARMHOUSE, the lavish and lush sounding RECEPTION AT CITY HALL. The powerhouse of a piece that is STALIN DOESN’T FORGIVE MIIAVICH/ALLES GUT SEIN and GENIKA UNDER BOMBS which is not as one would think dismal or sombre but uplifting with the composer employing rich strings, driving brass and proud and patriotic sounding choir which also purveys an atmosphere of hope in a time of chaos and death. I highly recommend you at least take a listen to the samples of this score that are available, I guarantee after you do so you will be ordering it or downloading it.