La Mula

Composed By: Oscar Navarro

Distributed by: MovieScore Media/Kronos Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on the novel by Juan Eslava Galan, the comedic war story La Mula stars Mario Casas as Juan Castro, a soldier fighting in the Spanish Civil War.  Finding a mule on the battlefield, Juan Castro resolves to rescue and protect the mule, hiding it among the other animals in his company with the intent of bringing her home with him at the war's end.  Stuck fighting in a war that he never believed in and on a side that he doesn't support, Castro's rescued mule gives him a sense of purpose and takes him on a journey that he could never have imagined.

                The musical score of La Mula was created by Spanish composer Oscar Navarro.  Beginning his musical career at an early age by studying the clarinet, Navarro went on to study musical composition at Allegro International Music Academy of Valencia and scoring for television and film at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.  Since then, Navarro has composed a number of musical scores for short films, worked as a conductor and orchestrator for Thunder Captain and created musical suites of Christopher Young film scores.  La Mula represents Oscar Navarro's first full length feature score.

                I listened to the La Mula Soundtrack without ever having researched what the movie was about.  I was instantly struck by the orchestral beginning which hinted at the idea of an epic adventure with it's sweeping orchestral tones.  The mood of the film changed by the third track, El Tocadiscos, in which a Spanish flare was exhibited featuring castanets.  This ethnic style would be featured prominently throughout the soundtrack with horns, Spanish guitars and Flamenco vocals.  Thus, I realized that this might be a dramatic adventure that plays out in a Hispanic country.  That is, until I heard the playful clarinet, tuba and other instruments.  Then I had the idea that the movie might be a comedic adventure with some drama mixed in - a dramedy if you will.

                Turns out, this was just what Oscar Navarro had in mind when creating the score for La Mula: "I used a symphony orchestra principally, but there are some parts that I wanted mix typical instruments from the Spanish culture like the Spanish Box, the castanets, a Flamenco voice and a Spanish guitar with the orchestra... I think the use of a symphony orchestra helps a lot to create different moods, the solo violin and cello used in different parts of the movie mixed with the sound of the orchestra gives to the scene more drama.  The mix of the Flamenco Box, Tuba and harp/harpsichord helped to increase the comic moments in some of the comedic scenes."

                The La Mula Soundtrack is an entertaining album, featuring various styles of music intertwined.  It tells the story of the film without revealing too much and appears to be a perfect compliment to the visuals.  As a stand alone album, it entertains just based on the various intertwined styles and instruments.  I'm a sucker for the use of traditional ethnic instruments along with orchestral sound to set the mood of a film and Oscar Navarro does this perfectly.  I predict we will be hearing much more from Mr. Navarro in the future.


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