Reviews – Wolf Hall

by Kaya Savas, F.M.M.

Wolf Hall is the new BBC series based on the novels by Hilary Mantel that follow the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. As a fictional period drama one can expect the lavish costumes and strong acting, and of course a score that anchors it all. Composer Debbie Wiseman offers up a score that is simply brilliant. The score has simple instrumentation that fits perfectly, but most of all the melodies are so emotionally on point that every narrative nuance can be felt.

When you have a show like Wolf Hall, everything becomes very dependent on character actions and interactions. A show like this will have lots of dialogue, not dissimilar to something like Game Of Thrones. However, the score here has found a way to be such an integral part of the plotting. The music almost accentuates the actors’ blocking of a scene, even the camera movements. And that is what makes this score so vivid, it’s the ability to evoke not just emotion but motion. Through the music you can feel a slight glance over the shoulder, a gleaming stare across the room, and all other types of character movements. Wiseman’s motifs create these emotional and structural arcs that make you almost fall into a trancelike hypnosis with the music. The instrumentation is so amazingly simple that the score feels timeless yet so at home in the period of the narrative. The music is so painfully beautiful at times that you become wrapped up in the emotional flow of certain cues. The more subtle moments still have those deep emotions, but you can actually feel the air between notes. The music is romantic and elegant with just the right amount of melancholy weaved through it. The score can even be bold and intense when it needs to be. All in all, this is a tremendous score that brings the world of Thomas Cromwell and the players of Wolf Hall to vivid life.

Wolf Hall is a score that embraces the theatrical qualities of the show’s format, it also does wondrous things thematically. Simple instrumentation echo elegant emotions steeped in romanticism that weave a dancing balance of character and narrative drive. You can feel the air between the notes, almost sensing when the next note comes during the quieter and slower moments. The motion of the characters and the camera can be felt in the construction of each track, as well as the inner feelings not shown onscreen. This is simply an amazing effort from Debbie Wiseman who showcases her talent for melody and emotional pull in a score that stands on its own while also carrying the story.