Musical drama “Cyrano” from stage to screen turned into something new; Most importantly, director Joe Wright wanted the song to be performed by all three members of the central love triangle.
“We’ve never written anything like that,” said Bryce Dessner, who, along with brother Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger, make up three-fifths of National. “We played duets, but writing a trio is very difficult.”
In the upcoming film based on classic French history, Roxanne (Hayley Bennett) has a crush on handsome soldier Christian (Calvin Harrison Jr.), who loves her back but cannot speak. Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) is madly in love with Roxanne, but he loves her so much – and so little himself – that he agrees to write her poetic romantic letters, as if from Christian. While fostering a relationship that breaks his heart, he can also express his own feelings for Roxanne in strange ways.
The song “Every Letter” moves like a fast heartbeat, filled with caffeine from the moving cello and syncopated drumbeats. Cyrano’s words (words of Berninger and his wife Karin Besser) are sensual: “Are we going to be ruined? Will you be faithful / to someone perfect, someone like you? “- passionately drives Roxanne crazy. “Every letter makes me lose my mind,” she sings, “Every word is like your kindest touch.”
In the musical “Cyrano’s poetry really lives on in his letters and songs,” said Aaron Dessner. “This song is where it really plays out.”
Christian, in his own words, moans less eloquently: “I’m tired of longing / I’m tired of studying / I need you to drink / my heart is on fire.”
Three voices swirl around each other like a dance, and then merge into harmony during the chorus – electric guitars jingle against the backdrop of a sprawling string orchestra.
“It was probably the hardest song for us,” said Aaron Dessner. “Because we were dealing with three different voices, and we really needed to find a way to make them natural in dynamics, so it seems like the sensuality of Cyrano’s words is played out through these three voices in this song.”
Like the rest of the score, the music is an artful blend of Dessners’ rock and electronic music, with a full orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. Bryce was on set in Sicily to keep an eye on all the music, and remembers staying up until 4am working on the orchestration for this song. Wright knew that the choice of each instrument would affect the way he shot the sequence.
Also at Wright’s insistence, all vocals were performed live by the actors.
“They are actors who sing, as opposed to singers who play,” Bryce said, “so we thought, ‘Oh, we really need to do this ahead of time.” But he really wanted to convey the raw emotion of those scenes – and we’re really glad he pushed us to do that because that was part of what made him special. “
Cyrano is not like a traditional musical, and it was done on purpose.
“Every time I make a movie,” Wright said, “I kind of pretend it’s the first movie I’ve ever made. And I love it when others do the same, trying to forget what we’ve learned, and trying to come to it is completely fresh. It was great to try new things. “