Der Überläufer

Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz

" Der Überläufer is proof of the exceptional qualities of Antoni Komasa-Lazarkiewicz as a composer. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the download only release

Polish composer Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz grew up in a family of filmmakers, which had a significant influence on him. He became part of diner meetings with composer such as Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and Zigbniew Preisner, which sparked an interest. He eventually studied composition in Cracow and began scoring projects for his aunt Agnieska Holland (Ekipa, Pokot, In Darkness…), even his brother-in-law Jan Komasa (Miasto 44) and many more. In finding his own sound and style, his music evolved from very direct and powerful to a minimal approach. Several Polish composers, in the age of 30 to 40 years old, have emerged and proven their exceptional skills, and Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz is one of them.

Der Überläufer (The Turncoat) is a 2020 German-Polish mini-series, also available as a film version, based on a Second World War novel by Siegfried Lenz. It's about a young Wehrmacht soldier Walter who falls in love with the Polish partisan soldier Wanda and decides to defect to the Russian army.

The composer was kind of enough to provide some background information on his score:

''I was proposed for it by the Polish co-producer of the film, the Kino Polska media company, over a year ago, before the beginning of the shoot. I soon met with the director, Florian Gallenberger, who has a very philosophical and meticulous approach to his work, which I truly enjoyed throughout the process. The first phase of my work involved consulting and arranging the songs to be sung by the character Wanda in the film. Our next meeting was around October, when we met up with the post-production team: the editors, the producer and Florian, and started discussing the actual score, trying things out with first rough scene edits. This process very soon evolved into a series of meetings and very tight-knit interactions in the trio: Florian, Robert Rzesacz, who became the principal editor of the series, and me. We would spend days working in my home studio in Berlin, going through scenes and longer passages, and carving out the narrative arc of the series.

The main challenge consisted of balancing between keeping the score concise and underlining the different phases of it. The story takes us from the relative security of Kurt’s home village, to the apocalyptic chaos of the military outpost, and then through the horror of captivity and final days of war, to the new post-war reality, with its stiffening, choking atmosphere of intimidation and paranoia. And all through this, there is a fine line of love and affection, connecting all these elements. Keeping this structure intact meant often going a couple of steps back and changing an earlier scene to support a later one. The material was constantly shifting and evolving, as the extremely tight schedule meant that we had to work on the score before the picture was locked. A very exciting and rewarding process, but at the same time extremely challenging, requiring a lot of discipline and precision. I am glad to have had two talented and open minded partners along the way.

The decision making process in a prime time German television project is quite complex, with lots of people involved in signing off on any new element. I must say that I approached this phase with a bit of anxiety, knowing that our margin of time for corrections and rewrites is extremely small. Luckily, the supervising producers of the series loved the concept and in the end gave us carte blanche.

In projects requiring very high efficiency, like this one, I rely on my long-time collaborator, assistant and conductor, Piotr Komorowski, who himself is an amazing composer and arranger. He lifted a very heavy weight off my shoulders, by organizing an amazing small ensemble of musicians, preparing the partitions and conducting the session. We recorded the score with another of my trusted friends and collaborators, Tadeusz Mieczkowski, together with his wife Klementyna. In the end, the whole score consisted of over 130 minutes of orchestral music, more than I’ve ever written in sync with the picture for one film. And it all happened in a very short period of time.

I am always conflicted about writing music for war films. I struggle with the notion that war can very easily be turned into an attractive spectacle, something which I deeply disagree with. I have seen many great war movies destroyed by pathetic, romantic music. I don’t want that period to be depicted as some kind of adrenaline-fueled adventure. Therefore, I have tried to keep the score in a rather human scale, with lots of very raw, gritty sounds, underlining the constant fear, anxiety and melancholia, which accompany the main protagonist throughout the story. In this, I found agreement with Florian, and a kind of natural, intuitive understanding with the visual crew of the film. The cinematography by Artur Reinhart, the editing by Robert Rzesacz, the sound design - all these aspects work together to create a sense of immersion, but more in a nightmarish dream than in a video game. The voices that have reached me after the premiere of “The Turncoat” have confirmed that our concept proved to be successful. ''

As the composer explains, the decision for this atmospheric approach is unerring. The music establishes an intense, suffocating atmosphere as well as a human emotion so strongly supporting the images. A few piano notes establish a wonderful central theme, a theme that directly offers a wide rang of emotions and is important in the evolving structure of the drama. The combination of gripping contemporary electronic timbre and live instruments prove to be a strong counterpoint, while they also strongly serve an equally or perhaps even stronger emotion as the string instruments soar. The 2-hour-long score never becomes dramatically uninteresting and always stays relevant and strong, even though it heavily relies on a few constantly revisited compositions. I think this is mostly due to the always conflicted emotions of the protagonist, which is the thing best illustrated by the score. This culminates in two key moments towards the end of the mini-series, one as Walter, who is now serving the Red Army, 'invades' his family's farm, the other in the aftermath of war. The use of music throughout Der Überläufer is impressive, but it is in these moments the effect of music is beyond words.

The music was digitally released by Dreamtool. Barely 30 minutes long, it's the best possible presentation of the 2-hour-long score. While I admire its use In context, I would probably not like a listening experience of longer duration, mostly due to its rather repetitive nature.

Der Überläufer is proof of the exceptional qualities of Antoni Komasa-Łazarkiewicz as a composer.

1 Heim 2:07
2 Die Passagierin 3:34
3 Partisanen 1:16
4 Waldesruh 2:30
5 Wanda 2:13
6 Stehauf 3:10
7 Schiess! 2:13
8 Kurt 1:13
9 Das Lager 2:30
10 Unsere letzte Nacht 2:07
11 Die Rückkehr 2:36
12 Berlin 1:14
13 An der Grenze 2:01
14 Die Befreiung 2:09
15 Der Überläufer 1:36

Total duration: 32:36

(click to rate this score)  
(total of 2 votes - average 2.75/5)

Released by

Dreamtool (download only release 2020)