01 · 15 · 20

Film and music: Composers in Mexican cinema

By: Aranza Flores @Alvayeah

One of the most important elements in any film is the soundtrack: from the suggestion of bad omen, to the evocation of memory. Music is, without a doubt, an essential component in the construction of environment and identity in the cinema, particularly in Mexican cinema.

Below we profile five Mexican composers who have worked extensively in the cinematographic industry.

Silvestre Revueltas

Silvestre Revueltas

Silvestre Revueltas

Filmed in Alvarado, Veracruz, Redes (1936, dir. Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel) is a portrait of political violence told through the story of a group of local fishermen. It stars Silvio Hernández, David Valle González, Rafael Hinojosa and Antonio Lara, as well as some genuine fishermen.

The film’s music was composed by Silvestre Revueltas, a Mexican violinist and orchestra director who was brother to Rosaura, José and Fermín Revueltas. He is considered one of Mexico’s most important composers, having worked on other important films including La noche de los mayas (1939) and Los de abajo (1940) by Chano Urueta, and Vámonos con Pancho Villa (1935) by Fernando de Fuentes.

The score for Redes earned Revueltas a place among the earliest composers for sound film, alongside Serguei Prokofiev.

Raúl Lavista

Raúl Lavista

Raúl Lavista

Raúl Lavista, one of the most well-known composers of music for film in the world, created the score for Luis Buñuel’s El ángel exterminador (1962), which tells the story of a group of upper-class people who are stuck in a room for no apparent reason. As the days go by, manners and education give way to savage behaviour. Starring Silvia Pinal, Enrique Garcia Álvarez and Luis Beristáin, this surrealist film is one of the director’s most important works.

Lavista composed the scores for 360 Mexican and North American films, including Dos monjes (1934) by Juan Bustillo Oro; Macario (1960), by Roberto Gavaldón and Susana (1951) and Simón del desierto (1965), also by Buñuel.

Carlos Jiménez Mabarak

Carlos Jiménez Mabarak

Carlos Jiménez Mabarak

The music for Arturo Ripstein‘s Tiempo de morir (1965) was composed by the Mexican Carlos Jiménez Mabarak, one of the most prolific of the 20th Century. The film tells the story of a man who is released from prison and returns to his hometown to live in peace. However, the sons of a man he murdered track him down and challenge him to a duel. The screenplay was written by Carlos Fuentes and based on a story by Gabriel García Márquez.

Jiménez Mabarak’s piece, Fanfarria Olímpica, was selected for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. In addition, his work on the film Veneno para las hadas (1984, dir. Carlos Enrique Taboada), won him an Ariel Award for Best Original Music.

Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras

Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras

Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras

Jaime Humberto Hermosillo‘s Naufragio (1978) is a Mexican drama film based on the story Tomorrow by Joseph Conrad, which tells of a woman who longs for the return of her son, a sailor who left to travel the world.

The film won the Ariel Award for Best Score, which was composed by Joaquin Gutiérrez Heras, who also won the Salvador Toscana Medal in 2008 for his work in the Mexican music industry. Gutiérrez Heras was director of Radio UNAM from 1966-1978 as well as a teacher in the National Conservatory from 1969–1970.

He composed the scores for flims like El cumpleaños del perro (1974) and El corazón de la noche (1983) by director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo.

Arturo Márquez

Arturo Márquez

Arturo Márquez

Based on the novel by Jorge Ibargüengoitia, Roberto Sneider‘s film Dos crímenes (1994) tells the story of two mysterious crimes committed in a town called Muérdago and the attempts of Marcos González to secure his inheritance from his politician uncle, Ramón.

The film was nominated for an Ariel Award for its score, which was composed by Arturo Márquez, as well as winning the Ariel for Best First Feature Film. Márquez is well-known for using Mexican musical styles in his compositions. With an extensive discography, he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Bellas Artes in 2009.