Musical Score By: Stephen Rennicks

Soundtrack Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               In the dramatic film, Viva, Hector Medina is Jesus, a beautician for drag performers in Havana, Cuba who longs for more.  Jesus wants to perform, but when he finally gets his big chance on stage, he is attacked…by his estranged father (Jorge Perugorria), a former boxer who has been out of his life for fifteen years.  It would seem that Jesus and his father, Angel, have a long way to go in understanding one another and finding a way to become a family again.

               The musical score of Viva was created by Irish musician and composer Stephen Rennicks who began his love of music as a boy listening to gospel music, choruses and hymns.  By the late 1980s, Rennicks was a member of the punk band the Prunes and was traveling through nightclubs in France and Germany.  Over the past decade and a half or so, Rennicks has been composing musical scores for television and film, including Adam and Paul, Garage, What Richard Did, Forever Pure, Frank and Room.

               The Viva Soundtrack begins with Opening, a happy-go-lucky sounding track featuring acoustic guitars played with a Spanish flare.  According to the composer, “In writing the music for Viva the challenge was to get themes and sounds which were somehow 'of' the characters and of the beautiful but bedraggled backdrop of the city of Havana.  The director, Paddy Breathnach, and I felt from early on that the instrumentation should have an acoustic feel and the themes be simple but strong and, in reference to the main character 'Jesus' in particular, have some sense of a veiled nobility.”  That happy atmosphere turns melancholy at the arrival of Angel.  Tracks like No Food, Dying, Starve and The Dying are rather dramatic, featuring piano or string solos to accentuate the drama.  Per Rennicks, “What you get is music with instrumentation that is at home in the setting of the story and melodically steers a more neutral course, underpinning the drama rather than creating it, that's the idea at least.  The images, the acting, the dramatic arc of the film are all so beautifully treated that luckily all I needed to do was be as sympathetic as possible to what was already there.”  The Ending track is upbeat once again like Opening, but with a slight difference to denote the growth of the main characters in the film.

               The music of Viva is quite beautiful.  Everyone who reads knows that I am a sucker for acoustic guitar melodies.  Thus, I was bound to find something to love on this album, but as a whole, the score is more than acoustic guitars…it’s a dramatic retelling of the storyline of the film through music.  Stephen Rennicks score definitely enhances the visuals of the film (as evidenced when I watched the movie’s trailer).  It has also inspired me to want to see this film, a true sign of a great musical score.  Job well done, Mr. Rennicks!


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