Marco Werba is an award-winning film composer with over 30 years’ experience in the industry composing music mostly for dramas, thrillers and horror movies although he has written for comedy and historical period dramas too. Marco has worked with and met many famous and influential film composers and film directors most notably from his adopted home, now in Italy. His father was an American reporter for Variety magazine in Madrid and his mother was a well-known abstract artist there before the family moved to Rome.
When he was young, he wanted to be a film director and made several super 8 short films, so his first love was actually film, not music. This changed when he went to see Logan’s Run at the cinema with his father. Directed by Michael Anderson the movie made such an impression on him he went to see it several more times, but it was the music by academy award-winner Jerry Goldsmith that left him spellbound and led to him wanting to study music.
His first film score won the prestigious Colonna Sonora Award in Italy for the film Zoo directed by Cristina Comencini. A very special moment for him not only winning the award for his composition but also for the opportunity to meet fellow film composers Ennio Morricone (A Fist Full of Dollars) and Francis Lai (Love Story) who were being awarded their lifetime achievement awards. A few years later Marco Werba had the opportunity to work with Francis Lai on the music of the Italian historical feature Amore e Libertà, Masaniello (“Love of Freedom”).
Marco would go on to win an Italian Golden Globe for his film score in Native, a low budget movie not expected to win awards but it had a song he wrote with Franco Simone that became a big hit. This just goes to show that it’s not always a big historical movie that can win an award.
His most successful collaboration was one with leading Italian film director Dario Argento on his thriller Giallo, starring Adrien Brody and Emmanuelle Seigner. The film score won 3 festival awards and Marco Werba felt the music for this film was even more accomplished than his previous work.
“A film composer is a strange job, in our lives every moment is not underlined by music. If we see each other with a woman or someone is killing someone there is no terror music. So why does an audience that goes to see a film accept there is music? The answer is the audience is not aware there is music at that moment. They don’t know that music is giving them the emotion. The fear, the sadness, the happiness most of the time it is given by the music. They receive music as an emotion of the overall movie, of the sound and the image.”
Finding the right balance between the music and the film is important to Marco as there shouldn’t be too much – no more than half of the film he recommends but every project is different with different demands. In the film Zoo he had to find a strange undefinable sound in the zoo, whilst in Giallo he used variations of music and sound as well as silence to help build the drama and emotion.
His influences are of course the iconic film composers who he reels off with great relish like Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Georges Delerue, Francis Lai all of whom he draws upon for a mix of classical and modern music inspiration.
For Marco the composer needs to be involved from the beginning of the process but in his 30 year career this has happened only once or twice, often only being involved in the post-production and left just 3 weeks to write, compose, arrange, synchronize and record the music. Ideally, he says, the composer should be involved before the shooting and then, during the post-production, where he can confirm the music themes and synchronize them with images.
“There are no precise rules. With experience one must determine which scenes actually require music to increase the dramatic pathos and the emotion given by the acting of the actors and the climax of the film. Directors are usually afraid of silence and tend to use too much music. It’s important to find the right balance between sounds and images. When this balance materializes, it is truly effective.
A composer who writes music for film needs to understand the meaning of the movie and to understand which music could help the movie, to help give the emotions. The inspiration comes from the film itself, from the story but sometimes also from the acting, from the colours, from many things and you can also have inspirations from other composers. The last word comes from the director. Not the composer or the screen writer or the editor. The director is the boss of the situation.”
The film L’Inverno, which Marco is now working on, is a World War II film set in Vienna, with music as a central theme. The main character is a Jewish violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra who has a relationship with a German SS officer at a time when the Jews were being persecuted by the Nazi Germans. Vivaldi’s Winter (L’Inverno) from his Four Seasons composition is a focal point of the film, its string section expressing both the frightening hardship and vivacity of human life. It draws comparisons with Roman Polanski’s WWII film The Pianist (and Chopin), having a similar war time setting and famous classical music theme.
“L’Inverno is a beautiful film project. The script written by Sharron Aubrey is very interesting and I specifically love films set during WWII, even if I don’t know why. The title of the film refers to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but in the film there are other important musical references, always linked to the classical and Jewish repertoire. Sharron has given me some indication, written in the script, especially about the source of the classical music. ”
The film has been heavily researched to give as accurate as possible telling of the story during the events surrounding the time. The classical music includes never before heard compositions from the victims of the holocaust bringing a haunting authenticity to the film and Marco has already written 2 strong music themes which he feels should fit the mood of the film.
“The first one is a very dramatic, powerful music theme that could work for the opening titles and for some key moments in the film. It’s a composition for the violin and big orchestra. The main titles and important scenes give the possibility to develop the music. In other moments where there are short thematic fragments there is no possibility of developing a musical idea, but these are part of the rules of the game. A film music composer must be accustomed to respecting the requirements of the film, as well as the sound effects and dialogues present in the film. The second one is a theme related to the main female role, the main violinist character, that has a melancholy flavour, more sad than romantic, that should reflect her feelings and the tragedy she is experiencing”.
The film is a perfect project for Marco, having previously written an adagio dedicated to the victims of Auschwitz, it is a story that he has great interest in especially because it’s a story about a violinist set in World War II.
“I worked for several years on this adagio, which initially started out as a string trio when I was a student of the “Mannes College of Music” in New York. Over the years I have developed the music and added a full strings section, solo oboe and timpani. This composition was chosen by an Auschwitz survivor (a member of the French resistance) to present his book on the internet, in which he describes his terrible experience as a prisoner of the camp, from which he survived by a miracle.
A few years ago I finally had the opportunity to perform the Adagio during a classical music concert under the direction of Lorenzo Castriota and to record it thanks to Antonello Martina’s “Soundiva Classical” music editions, with the Budapest orchestra under the direction of Péter Pejtsik.”
“Our dream or my dream for L’Inverno would be to record in London with the London Symphony Orchestra because in London they are the best musicians in the world. Amazing musicians, amazing orchestras.”
L’Inverno has all the properties to be a successful film and once the budget is in place the creative process can begin in earnest. Marco is very excited about working with award-winning director Roland Joffé (The Mission, The Killing Fields), whom he says it would be amazing to work with such an important director and, with a stellar cast yet to be finalized, the film has a chance to go to the Academy Awards. Something a fortune teller predicted would happen to Marco a long time ago.
“He said I would work with a well-known Italian director on thrillers and horror movies, which happened because I worked with Dario Argento and he told me one day I would have an Academy Award nomination. I am waiting to know for which film. Maybe it will be L’Inverno.”
Marco has worked with some amazing film makers and musicians over the years that have helped him develop his mastery of his craft. He brings an assured confidence to any film and in L’Inverno, a historical WWII film with a central musical theme, he has a film waiting for his magical touch and one we will be looking forward to seeing and hearing.