Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch on scoring All Of Us Strangers: “I mirror the intensity of the acting”

After a brilliantly blossoming career that has seen her scoring films and solo releases of her stunning modern classical music, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch has achieved a massive high point with her original music for All Of Us Strangers, starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal. She chats to Headliner about her career so far and working on the BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated film.

Before her film career fully blossomed, Levienaise-Farrouch sent a demo to Brighton’s Fat Cat records. Before long she was signed to their 130701 post-classical imprint, which is steeped in history as it was once home to the likes of Max Richter, Hauschka and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. Her most recent release with the label is her stunning album Ravage, which dropped in 2022.

On the other side of her career, Levienaise-Farrouch is rapidly establishing herself as one of the film industry’s go-to composers following her work on the critically acclaimed Rocks in 2020 and the Bill Nighy-starring Living in 2022, as well as several other films. She’s no stranger to the stage either, having performed at the Barbican, Union Chapel, as well as having new music premiere at the BBC Proms.

I didn't want to have a score that would be bombastic and huge and imposing.

Now an Ivor Novello and BIFA-nominated composer, Levienaise-Farrouch wasn’t always set on a music career. A combination of playing her grandmother’s piano, learning the instrument and classical music theory, plus a fascination with the production she heard in the music of Radiohead formed a big passion for music. But, being a millennial, she explains that, “If you wanted to learn about careers, you couldn’t just look it up, I’d have to go to a careers advisor. And if I said I wanted to do music, they wouldn’t exactly be helpful!”

But, after moving from her native Bordeaux to London to study music, and spending lots of time amidst the city’s clubs and concerts, music increasingly became an inevitability for her.

“I scored a few short films while at university with friends,” she says. “But I did worry about how the films you work on become your CV, and when you start out you need to take the films that come your way. So it felt really important that I go out and write my own music and experiment first.”

Her commitment to honing her sound and craft so that filmmakers would seek her out based on her music, rather than the types of films she has scored, paid off immensely when she got the call for All Of Us Strangers

Thanks to a compelling, reality-bending story and brilliant performances from Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, the film has garnered multiple BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.

Levienaise-Farrouch explains how, in a film like All Of Us Strangers, the performances from the actors play a huge role in shaping the music she composed for the film.

“I like to mirror the intensity of the acting,” she says. “With All Of Us Strangers, because it's such a delicate and subtle film, I didn't want to have a score that would be bombastic and huge and imposing. Andrew Scott’s emotional states in the film are so fragile; I was so affected by how detailed his performance is. It's so subtle, but there are some very small hints of a shift in him at some moments when the camera lingers on him.”

we wanted to manipulate the acoustic parts enough so that they were like a dream or a memory.

Indeed, with Scott’s character being a reclusive screenwriter who begins visiting his childhood home and encountering his parents, looking just as they did before they suddenly died 30 years earlier, a bombastic orchestral score was not going to fit the bill.

“I still wanted to have some acoustic instruments,” Levienaise-Farrouch says. “There's cello, violin and piano. I performed the synths on the score while watching the film to have this human touch. And if you bring live instruments and musicians, it adds so much variation and emotion to the score. But we wanted to manipulate the acoustic parts enough so that they were like a dream or a memory.”

And for any synth-heads keen to know which instruments found their way onto the score, Levienaise-Farrouch reveals: 

“I have the Sequential Take 5, which is a lovely little synth, and the Moog Sub 25. And it might seem funny to say because it’s such a cheap little synthesizer, but I used a lot of the MicroKorg on this film! It’s a pretty common synth, but I love the patches I’ve developed on it over the years and you can create some beautiful sounds on it.”

As is the nature of the film industry, Levienaise-Farrouch isn’t at liberty to divulge what her next projects are, only allowing the tidbit: “It’s a very vocal and choral-heavy score — you’ll know it when you hear it!”

But let’s not concern ourselves too much with that, the pressing matter is to go see the beautiful All Of Us Strangers and listen to the phenomenal score on repeat.

All Of Us Strangers images via Searchlight Pictures.