Hildur Guðnadóttir has made history by being the first Icelander to win an Oscar, and the first solo woman to win the award for a dramatic score, securing the award along with a Grammy, Emmy, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe, all within the span of a few short months for her scores for ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘Joker’. Hildur’s film scores have certainly received well-deserved praise.
The reality, however, is that Hildur has been hard at work for years, both in Iceland and internationally, building a reputation as an exceptional musician and composer in her own right. Hildur’s film scores getting the awards they have should therefore come as no surprise.
Film scores galore
In an interview she gave the Grapevine in 2017, she was already in the midst of composing a score for ‘Soldado’, the sequel to the 2015 thriller ‘Sicario’. Hildur’s film scores were already taking shape from her firm grasp on a score’s power, telling the Grapevine at the time, “Film music is manipulative. If a character appears with happy music you think: ‘Wow, what a super guy!’ But if the music is dramatic, you develop a different opinion.”
At the time, the Hafnarfjörður native was living in Berlin and sharing a studio with legendary composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, with whom she had already been collaborating for about 15 years—including working with him on his score for the film ‘Arrival’.
From múm to the big time
Long before ‘Arrival’, she had already earned a reputation as a stand-out musician and performer. She first gained attention with Iceland’s signature indie band múm, performing cello with them (an instrument that has become Hildur’s stock and trade), but has also performed with The Knife, Ben Frost and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Her score for 2015’s ‘The Revenant’ began to draw further international attention, while closer to home, her score for Baltasar Kormákur’s ‘The Oath’ earned her the DV Culture Award and an Edda Award, adding to the growing list of Hildur’s film scores.
“A sense of urgency in almost all that work that I create”
Despite the seemingly endless praise and recognition she has been receiving, Hildur has kept her feet firmly on the ground. In a recent interview she gave The Grapevine in the wake of winning our Artist of the Year award, she herself felt a sense of wonder about the accolades.
“Yeah, how do I explain it?,” she said at the time. “This year, just by complete accident, both projects that I worked on—the reception of them—went beyond my wildest dreams. It’s been quite incredible.”
Much of this can be attributed to her work ethic, which carries with it a sense of humility.
“When you’re doing film music you have to put your ego aside and be a servant of the story that’s being told,” she told us. “So even though I’m normally more comfortable with an instrument, I just felt that the story needed something else. It was quite an easy decision to make.”
Whatever the future holds for her, she will continue to approach each project with the same level of dedication, and Hildur’s film scores will likely continue to gain well-deserved praise.
“I feel a sense of urgency in almost all that work that I create,” she says. “I’m someone who doesn’t really do things halfway.”
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