As a composer with extensive experience in many areas – from hits and chansons that won many awards, writing of classical music and then film music - Alfi Kabiljo is probably one of the most inherent musical authors in Croatian/Yugoslav film, as well as oreign productions. His film opus is quite extensive. Out of about fifty soundtracks for feature, documentary and commercial films and about a hundred scores for the television, all of his music is representative and often has a cult status. He composed music for different genres of films – from partisan films (Pad Italije, Okupacija u 26 slika, Nepokoreni grad), socially engaged (Deps, A Patriotic Man, Gospođica, Kužiš stari moj, Lea And Darija), films and TV series for children (Ne daj se, Floki, Veliki i mali), historical films (Seljačka buna, Banović Strahinja), films that evoke some old genres (Sky Bandits, Lea i Darija), thrillers (Zločin u školi), dramas (Putovanje na mjesto nesreće) and many more.
The many different genres of films that he worked on, required from Kabiljo to adjust stylistically, not just to the genre at hand but also to the atmosphere, acting, costumes and set design, place of shooting and especially to the ideas of directors and producers. However, as a true film “chameleon” (an adjective that the composers of the Golden Age of Hollywood were especially proud of) he did not have any trouble composing “partisan” music (Pad Italije), „frightful“ music (Seljačka buna, Pad Italije), jazz (Deps), „western“-music (Sky Bandits), songs of any style (Lea And Darija, Kužiš stari moj, Deps, A Patriotic Man, Ne daj se, Floki), and even charleston and foxtrot inspired by the dance music of the 1930’s (Lea And Darija).
His orchestral scores are “epic” and opulent (Seljačka buna, Pad Italije, Banović Strahinja), beacuse Kabiljo is a great fan of orchestra. His role-model was Stravinsky so he works with orchestra by “turning” it on all possible sides. Namely, orchestra is not the only color: in situations necessary for film, sometimes he relies on a chamber ensemble (voce and guitar in Pad Italije or a small ensemble in Neka ostane među nama, in which orchestration was made by Alan Bjelinski) or several instruments, for example solo flute, oboe or voice (such as whistling in Kužiš stari moj). If he is working on a historical film, Kabiljo uses authentic instruments (an ensemble specialized for early music, Universitas Studiorum Zagrebiensis, played in Seljačka buna and Banović Strahinja), and composes stylistically authentic music (lament in Banović Strahinja, music at the fair in Seljačka buna, tarantella and przunera in Pad Italije). Sometimes he stretches himself to his outmost limits when he composes vocal-instrumental music resembling a concert (cantata „Govorenje Mikule Trudnog“ that accompanies the text by Marin Franičević, composed for the scene of the capitulation of Italy when people take their revenge on the Italian fascist in Lordan Zafranović’s Pad Italije).
Kabiljo skillfully handles all composing techniques. vješto barata svim skladateljskim tehnikama. He contrasts atonality and clusters to clear tonality (which sometimes slips into medieval modes – for example in the case of church music in Seljačka buna and Banović Strahinja), writes themes (that are sometime leitmotifs) that portray characters and film situations, and sometimes uses his strongest “trump” card – film songs, which boldly reflect the composing trends in which the films were made. At the same time he creates functional film music.
In combination with the picture, scores color the story in their own language, transfer the features of film narration and convey the specifics of the era (dance music of the 1930’s in Lea And Darija), place (Zagreb flare in Kužiš stari moj and Ne daj se, Floki or the Mediterranean flare in Zadarski memento) or simply let themselves be taken away by the atmosphere and drama (Deps, Gospođica).
Every music that Kabljo wrote for a film turns the film that it was written for into a musical film. Maybe the genres and stories don’t have a connection to music, but the suitability, inventiveness and the forethought of scene and non-scene music do urge one to listen. Films that Alfi Kabiljo composed for are not merely films to watch but also films to listen. And listen carefully. (Irena Paulus)