Composer Gabriel Yared Honored at Ghent Film Festival

Gabriel Yared Composer European Film Awards - P 2011
Raigo Pajula/AFP/Getty Images

Gabriel Yared Composer European Film Awards - P 2011

On hand for the release of a new compilation of his work, the Oscar winner says composers need to take more risks.

As part of its ongoing For the Record CD series, the Ghent Film Festival held a reception for composer Gabriel Yared to celebrate a Brussels Philharmonic re-recording of some of his most well-known film scores.

Yared was on hand for the release of the compilation, which includes his Oscar-winning theme from The English Patient, as well as the scores for Talented Mr. Ripley, Camille Claudel and others.

After the ceremony, which drew famed editor and frequent collaborator Walter Murch, Yared told The Hollywood Reporter that the Ghent fest is special because it celebrates film music on its own terms.

“Ghent means a lot because I started coming here 11 years ago when they started this festival,” he said. “I’m happy to know that there are festivals all over the world now for film music. But  Ghent has more depth. It’s not about just playing film music. It’s about respecting film music.”

Yared, who began studying composing in a Jesuit school in Beruit as a child, added that he especially appreciates Ghent’s emphasis on live music, which this year includes a Brussels Philharmonic performance of the work of Abel  Korzeniowski, who won Ghent’s Discovery of the Year award in 2009 for Tom Ford’s A Single Man.

“The music is really performed by a fantastic orchestra and a good conductor [Dirk Brossé],” he said. “I was never a great fan of having film music concerts. What I like is the way the film music here is performed without image, so that that the audiences can re-create images on their own.”

Despite his praise for Ghent, Yared was not shy about expressing frustration with what he sees as a lack of experimentation in modern film music.

“I’m not allowed to say this because I’m not very much a filmgoer and I don’t really listen to film music, but I feel it’s a little stagnant,” he said, adding that the problem doesn’t stem necessarily from composers themselves. “We need composers to [experiment], but we need also directors to understand film music, because very often this stagnation comes from a lack of knowledge from directors who are expecting to have the same kind of film music that they had before.”

If the composer’s working methods are any indication, he is no stranger to experimentation. Unlike most composers, who normally begin working on a score after a film has been shot, Yared prefers to immerse himself in the very beginning of the process.

“I work before the film, before the images … I talk to the directors, go to the shooting, meet the actors, meet the cinematographers,” he said. “If I have to see the film, I see the film in an early form and then I stop looking at it. I look to my imagination before starting to work just on a shot by shot [basis].” 

Asked if this approach might be considered too risky, Yared said: “Working this way you can serve the film very well. We have to be risky, we have to be bold."