An acclaimed Argentinian film, Wakolda (known internationally as The German Doctor) tells the true story of an Argentinian family who take in a lodger in 1960 who treats their prematurely-born daughter with growth hormones, not realising his chilling identity – Josef Mengele. The film is written and directed by Lucía Puenzo, who continues her collaboration with the acclaimed composing team Andrés Goldstein & Daniel Tarrab, who received such acclaim in 2004 for La Puta y la Ballena. Their score is surprisingly low key – a chamber orchestra joined frequently by drums and guitars – but reveals quite an emotional punch when inspected more deeply. There’s a charm to the early cues, setting the scene with a portrait of family contentment; then in one brief cue, “Blood and Honour”, the mood shifts – it lasts less than a minute but its impact is incredible – even though the subsequent piece, “Farewell”, features the same melody as heard earlier in the score and a similar arrangement, suddenly it is framed differently – it just has a different feeling because of the context – that’s brilliant dramatic film scoring.
The first action appears in “The Hunt Has Begun”, a dark piece filled with an ominous air and an energetic drive. Then horrors are revealed in “Nazi’s Bunker”, continuing in “The Persecution”, which are handled skilfully and delicately. The sound of the duduk adds a truly haunting edge. It is fascinating to hear this music develop through the album – a small core of melodies are heard throughout but there are subtle changes in tone which lead to them serving a very different function as the drama unfolds. The score is relatively brief and most cues are very short, but Goldstein and Tarrab maintain a fine musical architecture which avoids that being a problem. I don’t think interspersing the five songs which also appear on the album throughout the score works very well – they’d have been better placed together at the end, I think – but that’s something the listener can easily do. This is an impressive, serious score which rises above its relatively modest instrumental scale to make a big dramatic impression.