Written By: Vincent Nijenhuis
Mica Levi has written the best film score of the decade so far with her work on Under the Skin. The staccato strings being lead by a consistent drumbeat that sounds like the heart of the creature, played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson, puts us into the mindset of the character. On the score for the Jackie, Mica Levi manages to put us into the mindset of someone who walking through a fog that burns any piece of exposed skin. This isn’t nearly as experimental, or primal as her work on Under the Skin, but still incredible in it’s own right. It’s terrifying. It’s simple. It’s brilliant.
It’s worth noting that I am not critiquing how the music is used in the film, just the music itself. I have yet to see the film, so I cannot comment on how Mica Levi’s beautifully haunting score pairs with the images on screen. I don’t need to. Mica Levi has crafted a score so emotionally moving that, simply by listening to it, I know the emotional character arc that Natalie Portman’s portrayal of the title character goes on. Natalie Portman plays Jackie Kennedy dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s assassination, and in the score, you can hear just how hard Portman’s character is trying to keep digitiny, both for herself, and her deceased husband. On “Walk To The Capital,” there’s a droning dread Levi manages to inflict upon the listener, yet an urge to keep yourself together and not see the cracks in the performance.
There’s a quiet in the chaos in the score. Levi doesn’t rely on the cheap trick of bashing a bunch of sound together to a melody to create chaos. Again, she goes back to simply, jarring staccato strings to echo the protagonist’s mind. There’s a wooziness to the sounds she creates on the album that manages to create the sensation of feeling lightheaded, and in a haze like any serious trauma does. Mica Levi manages to do everything she set out to do.
The problem is that what Mica Levi sets out to do is drive you deep into a seemingly mannered psychosis. I can’t recommend this album for light listening. It’s great music, but it’s not easy music to listen to. There’s a hollowness to the sounds that reflect the performance of being. It manages to make you unable to expel the emotions you are feeling, because, like Jackie Kennedy, you cannot let the world see you fall from grace. This is an album that sinks under your skin and can ruin you if your attention slips for a second.