The Face of Film Music
By Mary Carreon
“I always kept an eye out for the film thing, and I had faith it was going to find me, which it did.” Beginning his music career at 10 years old, Marcelo Zarvos has become a critically acclaimed composer in multiple mediums. As his talent extends from composing concert, theatre and dance music to scoring films, the Brazilian composer has a style that emphasizes the power and beauty of the musician.
Leaving Brazil at 18 years old to study music in the U.S., Zarvos didn’t do anything with film until he’d lived in America for 10 years, ironically. But, his education at California State of the Arts broadened his knowledge in terms of music and the performing arts. “I studied classical music, jazz and a lot of world music,” said Zarvos. “[Cal Arts] had a fantastic program that had Japanese music, African music and Indian music, so it was a very interesting place.” He also invested a good amount of time learning about animation, visual arts, dance, writing music and playing jazz during his time at Cal Arts.
Immediately out of school, he got a record deal with a Japanese label and travelled to Japan to play his music. After playing in Japan, Zarvos moved to New York City, where good timing and fate provided him with opportunity. “A director heard me performing and asked me to write music for his short film,” Zarvos said. “It was a Brazilian film called A Soccer Story… and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.” It was after scoring this short film that Zarvos began reaping the rewards of his dedication to music.
Zarvos’ latest score for the film, The Face of Love, was digitally released in the U.S on March 11, 2014 via Varèse Sarabande Records. The soundtrack has strong themes, heavy strings and piano, creating a timeless sound. “In many ways it’s a very old school film and score,” said Zarvos.
The score emanates with emotion and reflects the big orchestral sounds popular to older, classic films. “It is a very psychological love story—you don’t really know what’s going on in [Nikki, the leading actress’] head… but the music really plays to her anxiety and longing of her lost love.” While still maintaining a crisp, modern sound, the orchestra strategically hits the emotional, romantic and suspenseful elements of the story.
The score was a collaborative effort between Zarvos and director, Arie Posen. According to Zarvos, the two had a blast creating the soundtrack. “It was a very sophisticated way of scoring and interacting with a director,” Zarvos said. “We had a really good time.”
The soundtrack was generated separately from the film, allowing for a more natural creation of music. “I had written a bunch of music before going to [Posen’s] house to play everything I had for him on his piano. As I played he would say, ‘ok I like that one, or no I don’t like that’...” Keeping in mind iconic films and directors, Zarvos and Posen looked to the mid-20th century for inspiration. “We talked a lot about Hitchcock throughout the process,” Zarvos said. “The score has that kind of thriller aspect to it.”
Another additional project Zarvos is working on is a score for the movie, The Humbling, based on the Phillip Rock novel. The movie, starring Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig, is another dark love story focusing on the blurred lines between reality and the imagination. In April, additionally, Zarvos will begin to work on the music for the second season of the Showtime series, Ray Donovan.
Regardless of what genre of music he’s composing, Zarvos’ method of music composition focuses on musicianship—a concept that’s been lost in modern music and society. Despite experiencing multi-genre success, Zarvos’ humble nature and genuine love for music will continue to breed prosperity.