Smart People: About The Music

The final touches were added to SMART PEOPLE by composer Nuno Bettencourt, a highly regarded guitarist who makes his debut as a composer on the film. Bruna Papandrea, a friend of Bettencourt's, had given him a copy of the film and without even being asked, Bettencourt had found himself inspired to write some music. Later, the filmmakers listened to his cues and felt instantly that this was the right musical direction for the film. “Music is your emotional bed and I always felt that at the end of the day, the score needed to echo the interior humbleness of these characters and situations,” says Noam Murro. “Nuno got that straight off the bat.”

Bettencourt found his initial inspiration in the subtle details of the opening moments of the film. “There are all these sort of slouchy moments, with the way Lawrence walks, the way he parks his car and the way he can't remember people's names. It reminded me of `The Odd Couple' in a way and I could already hear the music,” he says. “Of course, a dysfunctional family is something I always connect with and I definitely connected with this one.”

Rather than creating big, orchestral compositions, Bettencourt's approach was more restrained and chamber-like, reflecting the characters. “I wanted to match the subtleties in the story telling with the music,” he explains. “There are only six main characters and most of the time there are only two or three of them in a scene. It hit me right away to follow a rule that there shouldn't be more instruments than characters in any scene.”

He also determined that he would always work against the grain, contrasting the film's moods with the music. “If the scene was heavy then I kept the music light or if there was a moment of romance I changed the tone and rocked it out a little,” he notes. “Just when things start to get a bit miserable, the key was to play it a bit funny, musically. Everybody knows that's part of any family - that misery is often funny when you look back on it, and that's there always love in there somewhere.”

Bettencourt also wrote several original songs for the film with his wife Suze Demarchi, a songwriter and former lead singer of an Australian band. “We experimented and strategically placed Suze's and my original songs whenever we needed to lift some of the characters. I think the songs work really beautifully and play well lyrically and we had a great time doing it. It brought us closer.” Naturally, Bettencourt had some nerves about making his feature composing debut, but he remembers the day they were allayed. “Noam came by to hear the score and he had this horrible look on his face and he looked like he was crying at one point and I thought, my God, is it that bad? And then he got up and he kissed me,” recalls the musician. “And it turned out that he really loved it.”

Whether it was in the music, the design or the performances, Noam Murro was ultimately most focused on nailing the delicate but reverberating shifts that lie at the heart of SMART PEOPLE. He sums up: “It's a story that constantly shimmers between drama and comedy, and hopefully, you wind up with a sense of having really seen both the laughter and sadness in these people, this one fragile family. In the end, that's all you can really ask for.”

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