W.E. tells the story of two fragile but determined women – Wally Winthrop and Wallis Simpson – separated by more than six decades. In 1998, lonely New Yorker Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is obsessed with what she perceives as the ultimate love story: King Edward’s VIII’s abdication of the British throne for the woman he loved, American divorcée Wallis Simpson. But Wally’s research, including several visits to the Sotheby’s auction of the Windsor Estate, reveals that the couple’s life together was not as perfect as she thought. Weaving back and forth in time, W.E. intertwines Wally’s journey of discovery in New York with the story of Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D’Arcy), from the glamorous early days of their romance to the slow unraveling of their lives in the decades that followed.
Madonna about the film
W.E. is about the nature of true love, and the sacrifices and compromises that are often made. I’ve wanted to tell this story for a very long time, and bringing it to life has been a great adventure for me.
Music between Mirrors
The prevailing sense of obsession was what inspired me in W.E.. The irrational compulsion to sacrifice everything and anything for love – a love that could easily be just an illusion, a reflection of a nonexistent, fictitious object or a repetitive answer to the Rorschach test, taking the form of a pair of ten-thousand-dollar gloves…
Madonna intensifies this impression with the use of long tracking shots down hallways and mirrors. We can see reflections of the characters displayed on different objects, from unexpected angles, but we are not allowed to look at them directly.
The score for W.E. takes inspiration from this filmic approach. There are six recurring themes in the film, but none of them is fixed to a traditional function like a love motif or a character motif.
Instead, the same theme can carry despair and sorrow in one scene, and turn into hope and joy in another. This happens without any melodic alterations. Once established, a melody remains the same and repeats relentlessly, over and over again. It’s like watching multiple reflections of a person in a room full of mirrors. The person doesn’t really change, but the world revolving around it compels us to think otherwise.
The opening scene introduces the two most prominent themes of the movie.
The first one, called Six Hours, very melodic, is displayed here in full force. This is the one that’s starts the film in despair and sorrow, kindles a new relationship in the middle of the story, and empowers us with hope and joy before the end credits.
The next one is only hinted at the end of the first cue.
It’s just a simple harmonic structure of what will later become the strongest theme of all – Abdication. It appears six times in the film and serves to bridge two love stories in two different time periods.
The score was written over the course of four months, starting in January 2011. It was recorded with a 60-piece orchestra and solos (piano, violin and viola) at Abbey Road Studios in London, in April 2011.
— Abel Korzeniowski
Critics about the score
Chocolate for the Ears! (…)
W.E. reaches right in, grabs my gut, and transports me to every single love story I’ve ever seen, heard, or felt. It is the universal embodiment of the raw, emotional power of romantic love. I daresay it is the most romantic score I’ve ever heard. Yes, ever. Eat your heart out, FRANCIS LAI. You’ve been dethroned, MAURICE JARRE. (…)
You can taste the bittersweetness of this romance. The passionate longing is so palpable, it is almost a chemical reaction. If you have this album, you won’t need chocolate ever again. Think of all the weight you won’t have to gain when you next get a craving for theobromine. With a good set of speakers or headphones, this music is just that good. (…)
Incredibly gorgeous and one of the most moving scores I’ve listened to in a while.
This score is brilliant and it did pass my first expectations even though they were very high.
(…) the score is absolutely gorgeous. Often utilizing the ensemble to its full emotional capacity, Korzeniowski really plays with the emotions of the audience. (…)
Lovers of A Single Man will be glad to hear Abel Korzeniowski take that sound in a more potent, romantic direction, accordingly giving them one of the most beautiful scores of the year and a fantastic example of how simplicity can often work wonders. (…)
Abel Korzeniowski delivers one of the most attractive scores of the year. In fact, many of the highlights are worthy “best of the year” material.
(…) Abel’s own voice which is gifted with a strong flair and ultimate passion, under-signing each and every single composition he wrote for this [W.E.]. Elegant, small-scaled and classical sounding, this romantic little musical fairy tale is one of the most gorgeous works you’ll hear this year.
The imagery is then elevated to dizzying heights by an equally lustrous score by Abel Korzeniowski.
… brilliantly brought to life with a glorious score by Polish-born composer Abel Korzeniowski.
Abel Korzeniowski’s musical score is magnificent…
the excellent soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski
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