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Music For Film: The Cunning Man

The Cunning Man - Short Film Soundtrack

Film Synopsis / About

A lonely man on a farm collects the corpses of dead animals, find out his shocking intentions in this fantasy short inspired by the tales of real-life physician John Harries (1785 - 1839), a 'Cunning Man' notorious for using folklore magic.

Background To The Soundtrack

I love this film made by Zoe Dobson that reminds me a little of a modern take on Tales Of The Unexpected. This was a great one to work on as it was the first one where we got to do all the music, not just the under-score but all the original music in it too.

I enjoyed being able to work on a theme introducing the underlying elements and each time it returns bringing more and more elements as the story unfolds, something I’d love to do more of in the future.

Lol came over for the session for a few days and with some reference points for the music from Zoe we started writing to picture.

The country and western track “I Got It Bad” you hear on the radio in the Land Rover at the intro we wrote based around Lol’s guitar riff and sent to the wonderful Eva Abraham who did the most amazing job.

Definitely my first foray into Country and Western.

The film toured the festival circuit and currently has won over 30 awards.

more information from the filmmakers:

"Described by writer Ali Cook as an “enchanted fable”, Zoë Dobson’s 13-minute short The Cunning Man blends folk-horror elements with historic inspiration to create an atmospheric film brimming with thought-provoking themes. Inspired by stories of John Harries (1785-1839), a physician and real-life ‘Cunning Man’ whose family were famous throughout Wales, this is a magical tale grounded in reality by touching on topics such as greed and animal rights.

Introducing us to its protagonist, titular ‘Cunning Man’ Afran Harries (Simon Armstrong), as he carries a dead dog along a rural track, you’re soon immersed in his world and wondering what he’s up to, as he also stops to collect a dead chicken on his way home. As we’re then taken on a tour of his farmstead home, alongside The Inspector (Ian Kelly), the intrigue builds as we discover the menagerie of animal corpses currently rotting on his premises. As Jones and the local knackerman (played by Cook) discuss their devious plan to “make a killing”, we soon get an insight into what Harries has in store for his collection of carcasses.

“Growing up on a farm, the death of innocent animals is something with which you become familiar”, Dobson explains as we begin to discuss the motivation behind making The Cunning Man. Admitting she found the experience “brutal and often hard to reconcile”, the director also reveals that she hopes the short will provoke its audience to ponder the question of whether “animals should be treated as a commodity?”, adding that the subjects tackled in the short “run deep in my own view”.

Blending fantasy filmmaking with an IRL message is a clever way to get the short’s point across, but ultimately it’s the genre element here which makes The Cunning Man so entertaining. Though listed on our site as a ‘Fantasy’, there are definite Horror roots entangled in the storyline, with its rural settings and use of incantations lending it the air of a modern Folk Horror. Discussing the interesting genre mix in the film with Cook, he reveals that the film’s appeal “to both genre festivals and art house drama festivals”, was something he was particularly proud of.

Despite its fable-like qualities, there’s also plenty here to ensure The Cunning Man feels grounded in reality and taking place in a world we’re familiar with, something Cook, Dobson and their team obviously gave great thought in their production. With the story focused on folklore, they chose to use in-camera techniques to help create what the writer/actor describes as their own “magic within this film” – something he’d know a lot about, having been a professional magician for twenty years.

That particular approach to their production was certainly successful in enhancing the mystical feel of the short. The final scene where the short’s titular ‘Cunning Man’ performs his own special blend of healing is truly a magical spectacle. Those of you who understand some of the trickery possible in cinema may have a good idea of how they achieved it without post, for me, I’m just going to assume it’s real-life wizardry." - S/W Curator Rob Munday

Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.

Tracklisting / Listen

The soundtrack is not available for purchase at the moment but the tracklisting is as follows:

1) I Got It Bad
2) Cunning Man Theme
3) Hidden Theme
4) Bag of Brushes
5) Cunning Man Theme
6) I Got It Bad (Instrumental)


The film toured the festival circuit and currently has won over 30 awards.