(Credit: Netflix)

Films

How David Bowie inspired the score for 'Little Women'

Now available on Netflix, there is something utterly beguiling about Greta Gerwig‘s 2019 film Little Women. The famed story may have been adapted on several occasions, but Gerwig, with the help of Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep and more, transformed the tale into something modern.

While much of that was delivered via the film’s impressive cast, a lot should also be said for the wonderful score. Alexandre Desplat, the French composer tasked with creating the score for the picture, revealed that it wasn’t composers of the age that influenced him when penning the music but David Bowie.

The picture, which arrives as the eighth film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel of the same name, explores the lives of the March sisters in 1860s New England in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Desplat, who has already claimed two Oscar victories for his musical work on The Grand Budapest Hotel and for The Shape of Water, arrived as the latest big name to be attached to the project and was tasked with tapping into the mind of Gerwig who had a particularly distinct direction for the score. “I always try to ask, ‘What do you expect from me as the composer? Do you want me to do something grand? Melancholic? Lush? Huge? Small?’,” Desplat told Billboard of his early conversations with Gerwig. “She said with enthusiasm, ‘I’d like the music to be a mix of Mozart meeting Bowie’,” he added.

Desplat continued: “It doesn’t mean anything, but it does mean something if you let the energy come into your system, and you get something of that, and this opening is about that.”

The composer, who joined the Little Women project in April this year, has vast experience having worked prolifically on both low-budget independent productions as well as large-scale Hollywood blockbusters. When asked how he interpreted a Mozart and Bowie mashup, he explained: “I think energy, pulse, melodies, joy and rhythm because Mozart has a lot of rhythm. And Bowie, of course, there’s something pop about the art direction of this film. The way they dance—they don’t dance like they would be in a period movie, with every moment tailored like it’s 1867.

“[Gerwig] took the challenge of making them dance differently and have fun and be excited like kids nowadays would dance if they were 15 or 13. There’s a youth about Mozart, because we know Mozart was a child all his life, and for Bowie, there’s something extravagant about him that we see in their characters—they want to be different, they all want to be artists, except for Meg maybe.”

Watch Little Women on Netflix now.