“From the earliest discussions Eric and I had about the film, we decided to approach scoring this movie in what is now a relatively unusual way. I was to write themes for the main characters way in advance of shooting and Eric had played my earliest demos to the cast and crew so the general aesthetic and mood of the movie was defined very early on.
I worked from an English translation of the script and read it many times before I started to write. Something Eric said struck a chord with me here – that none of the characters every really explicitly say what they mean – my music has to speak for their interior thoughts.
Though I suppose the heroine of “Une Affaire D’Etat” is Nora the young policewoman, I felt the real central psychological core of the movie was the points of view of Victor Bornand and Michel Fernandez. Both men believe themselves to be in control of their situations when in fact circumstances are spiralling increasingly beyond their grasp. John Barry’s late 60s score was to The Ipcress file was a big influence. In the way that score relied heavily on the Hungarian cimbalom with all it’s Cold-War Eastern Bloc resonances, I wanted a single instrument to be the central voice of the movie and I chose Harpsichord to symbolise the old-school elegance of the elder statesman Bornand, as Parisian as the Haussman era architecture that surrounded him, and an instrument well suited to what I wanted, with an almost mathematical clock rhythm to the melodies representing time running out for the man as his downfall becomes apparent as the movie progresses.
It hadn’t been my original intention, but it also worked perfectly for what became Nora’s theme and the opening titles music.There is a respectful nod here to Neal Hefti’s classic harpichord-driven “The Odd Couple”.
When I visited the set during shooting, I was overjoyed that the actors had already heard their ‘themes’. When I met Thierry Fremont, I had yet to write Fernandez’ theme and he said he was looking forward to hearing ‘his’!
The actual harpsichord I used is a beautiful 18th Century dual manual example and is in fact in Aukland University in New Zealand and was recorded over there for me by James Gardner. Almost every time harpsichord appears in the score it has a carefully tuned digital delay processing providing a constant aura of cascading harmonics always rooted in an impressionistic haze of all notes in the chord.
I wanted the entire movie to be drenched in melancholy minor-ninth ambience.
The first piece of music I completed was to represent Bornand’s realisation that he’s been betrayed and is truly alone in his descent into ruin. I’m very pleased with my whistling on this one!
For the two chase sequences in the movie, I used Martin McCarrick’s aggressive staccato cello as the central core of the instrumentation to particularly good effect as the Sacre Coeur scene races towards it climax,
For the end-titles song Eric was very keen for me to bring in Magazine frontman Howard Devoto on vocals, effectively bringing about our first writing collaboration since 1990 apart from Howard's lyrical contributions to the two @440 songs "Film Me And Finish Me Off" and "Pain is a Close-Up" from the first album. The result is the song “To Anyone Counting”.
The whole process of working on the score for this movie was a joy from start to finish and Eric and I have formed a solid friendship and working relationship that I’m sure will go from strength to strength on future projects. He’s a genius of a director who knows exactly what he wants and how to achieve the best results from the team he has assembled around him including me. I even ended up with a cameo role in the movie as a street accordian player in Paris which was fun."