About us
Croatian film


A musician at heart: Arsen Dedić and his film music

I always prepared myself for life of a musician...’ said the composer Arsen Dedić. Arsen Dedić appeared in public at the beginning of the 1960s and began his career copying music sheets, arranging, and singing. At the same time, his ambitions were much greater. The public recognized him as a chansonnier with a completely new and different expression. Soon, he began to compose music for theatre plays and movies. The first movie he worked on was Tomislav Radić’s Plain truth (Živa istina, 1972), and from then until today he wrote about a hundred movie scores. Among them are Train in the Snow (Vlak u snijegu), The Glembajs (Glembajevi), The Donor (Donator), Southbound Train (Vlakom prema jugu) and Stella (Stela).

The essay gives a detailed analysis of music of these films, presenting Arsen Dedić as one of the most significant composers of film music in Croatia. He aspires to simplicity — his whole opus (which is primarily based on the expression by means of chanson) ’surfaced’ from a melody — and exactly with the help of the simplicity he speaks with language befitting films and viewers. The essence of Arsen Dedić’s composing is communication with the public that he achieves by introducing clear, recognisable and most of all, melodic themes that almost always become film leitmotifs.

For example, The Glembaj’s represent a type of film score that sets from the very beginning the musical style that will accompany the picture on the screen. This music contains many elements of the so-called ’contemporary’ music (widened tonality, quartal harmony, lack of melodiousness), however, it manages to persuade the viewers of its baroque quality. Nevertheless, it seems that to Arsen Dedić likeability of music is far more important than modern approach, while likeability coupled with simplicity in the movie Train in the Snow became composer’s imperative (due to the abundance of songs, the film is somewhere between the children’s film and a musical).
The macro form of film often copied itself into the macro form of the music sheet.

However, in the case of The Donor, tripartition of the story reflected itself only partially on the musical structure. Composer Dedić paid more attention to frequent exchanges of present and past events between two different settings — Paris and Belgrade. One could speak about ’French’ and ’Balkan’ incidental music, although basic tripartition could be felt even within this concept.

Dedić often worked with one director in particular — Petar Krelja. Krelja decided to use the essence of Arsen Dedić — intimate lyric of his music, ascetic hiding behind maximal simplicity of the orchestra, and the ability of composing songs that incorporate into movies becoming parts of their identity, although not as in film musicals. That is more than evident in the scores of movies ’Southbound Train’ and ’Stella’.

Irena Paulus

Patriarchy in Zvonimir Berković’s movies
Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up
The Pictorial Face of Reality — Dogma approach

View other articles in this edition...


new edition

Web Statistics