After composer Emile Mosseri worked on A24’s release of The Last Black Man in San Francisco in 2019, he went in search of a different sound that felt like love. This time it’s not the affection for one’s own roots, but the love of a Korean-American family who moves to a farm in Arkansas in search of the American dream.



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Composer Emile Mosseri


Mosseri treats each movie as its own universe and doesn’t know where its sounds will take him, but he had instincts when it came to Lee Isaac Chung’s latest film.

“I wrote the music [for Minari] in the scripting phase, ”Mosseri said in a recent discussion of his music with the Denton Record-Chronicle. “I hadn’t seen the pictures yet. Most of it was written before I saw anything [Chung] had captured. It was less inspired by the graphics than by the story and the emotional core of the film. “

Loosely leaning on Chung’s childhood as a Korean immigrant, Minari allowed Mosseri to explore a unique soundscape that harnesses his characters’ emotions. How the composer managed to create these sounds that exist between heartbreak and sincere hope is an astonishing feat that Mosseri said was “beautifully articulated in the original script”.

“It wasn’t necessary that one scene was heartbreaking and the next one was inspiring or hopeful. You have both within a scene, and I think that’s what attracted me to the film, among other things. It is so true to life. So life is. It’s not one or the other – it’s both. It was important to me that that was reflected in the music, ”said Mosseri.

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(LR) Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari,” a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24

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(LR) Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho in “Minari,” a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24.

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(LR) Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho in “Minari”, a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson, courtesy of A24

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(LR) Yeri Han, Steven Yeun in “Minari”, a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson, courtesy of A24.



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(LR) Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari,” a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24



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(LR) Alan S. Kim, Noel Cho in “Minari,” a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh, courtesy of A24.



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(LR) Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho in “Minari”, a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson, courtesy of A24



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(LR) Yeri Han, Steven Yeun in “Minari”, a film about a Korean family who immigrated to Arkansas in the 1980s. Photo by Josh Ethan Johnson, courtesy of A24.

Most of Mosseri’s subjects were guided by the conversations he and Chung had about what they did not want to explore musically. They openly wanted to leave out Korean music, Arkansas sounds, or an 80s synth score (considering the film is set in the 1980s). Instead, they set about creating pieces that “contained all of these things and were none of these things at the same time.” Mosseri wanted to create a work that was all encompassing and encapsulated how phenomenal beauty and the hardships of immigration and working out a life for yourself go hand in hand.

“There had to be pain. There had to be struggle and hope in music at the same time. It’s nice in it, but it’s never sugar-sweet. It has to feel honest and have depth, ”continued Mosseri.

An example that brings all of these different sounds together is “Wind Song”. The song begins with the strumming of a guitar to complement the region in which the film is set. Accordion and whistling sounds soon follow to give the track a more youthful and adventurous feel of grass swaying in the wind. Mosseri rounds off the complexity of the song by incorporating the voice of Korean actress Han Ye-ri, who portrays Monica, the wife and mother of the central family in Minari. These ingredients are a ghostly trail that works like a lullaby that traveled to America from overseas.

Every song in the score feels like part of a family and serves as the perfect connection to the core theme of the film. Each track is unique, but has a similar pattern and history. When asked whether he had found that certain instruments complement certain emotions best, Mosseri compared the process to putting a puzzle together.

“When you have the heart of the score, some main themes, try them out on different instruments and make different arrangements and variations of the theme to play over different scenes,” explained Mosseri. “For me the process is different: I prefer to write a few musical arrangements. It’s not about putting them in a picture, but about becoming villains, experimenting and exploring. Then I play the different pieces over different scenes to see what works instead of thinking, “Oh, this scene is more serious, so I should try this instrument.” It’s more of a reverse development. “

Mosseri concluded by recounting how not only the story and the performances of the film changed his world, but also the music he conjured up continued to shape him and change his tastes in unexpected ways.

“I think everything you hear will find its way into your heart. It will show through your work in one way or another – especially if you’ve been working so intensely on a project for months, ”said Mosseri. “Minari will definitely stay with me and change my approach to my next score. I believe in that. “

Minari is now playing in select theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Check your local listings to see where it’s playing near you. It will be available on request from February 26th.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work here, on FreshFiction.tv and on RottenTomatoes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.