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Ammonite: who wrote the music to Francis Lee's BAFTA-nominated film?

A small chamber orchestra forms the centre of this historical film's sparingly used score, which provides the backdrop to a story of forbidden love in 1840s Lyme Regis

Published: October 6, 2021 at 2:44 pm

Ammonite grabbed headlines when it was released in 2020 and was quickly nominated for a tranche of BAFTAs. It had barely received a theatrical release initially though, thanks to the growing second wave of Covid-19 across the UK. There's good news in store for Francis Lee fans, as Ammonite will be landing on Amazon Prime on 22 October 2021. Audiences will finally be able to watch it in its entirety, and enjoy its sumptuous original score.


Who wrote the score for Ammonite?

The score for Ammonite was written by the composing duo Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann, the latter of whom is best known under his performing name 'Hauschka'.

The score was nominated in the shortlist of the 2021 Academy Award for Best Original Score, but it didn't make it to the final five nominations.

O'Halloran and Bertelmann described their process of working on the music for Ammonite as 'smooth and natural'.

'We already knew from director Francis Lee's previous work that this would be a score full of emotion and restraint,' they said.

The film is set in the 1840s, something the composers wanted to bear in mind when creating the sonic backdrop. 'Because the film is a period piece, it also meant finding a tone and instrumentation that would work in this world,' they said. 'We decided on a small chamber group of strings and piano as our palette and worked from there.'

'We found the strong acting that both Kate and Saoirse brought meant we needed to offer space, and try not to overstep.'

Dustin O'Halloran is an American pianist, composer and member of the band A Winged Victory for the Sullen, which provided the music for Francis Lee's directorial debut film, God's Own Country, starring Josh O'Connor and Alec Secăreanu. O'Halloran released his first EP, Sundoor, on the Deutsche Grammophon label in 2019, featuring a single 20-minute piece titled 196 Hz, adapted from a 2017 composition.

Hauschka (Volker Bertelmann) is a pianist and composer who is well known for his use of the prepared piano. He has also worked on scores for Patrick Melrose on Showtime and Sky Atlantic and Gunpowder on HBO.

The pair have previously collaborated on the score to the 2016 film Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, for which they were nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe a BAFTA and a Critics Choice Award.

The film's composer Dustin O'Halloran is shown here performing 'Fossils', Ammonite's main theme.

What's the story of Ammonite?

Ammonite is inspired by the life of British palaeontologist Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet, and a speculative relationship she might have had with Charlotte Murchison, played by Saoirse Ronan. Set in the 1850s on the Jurassic Coast of England, Anning spends her days selling fossils to tourists to support her and her mother. When the young, middle-class Charlotte Murchison arrives in town, Anning is asked to care for her by her husband. The pair develop a passionate relationship.

Is the film Ammonite based on a true story?

The story of Ammonite is based on the life of pioneering fossil hunter Mary Anning, but although the film is based on her speculative lesbian relationship, it's not clear whether this was true. HistoryExtra has analysed the plot of Ammonite, breaking down each element of the story and deciphering where the truth lies.

Can you buy the soundtrack to Ammonite?

You can download the soundtrack to Ammonite now from Amazon or iTunes.

Where can you stream the soundtrack to Ammonite?

The score is currently available to stream on the following platforms:

Ammonite: Full track listing

  • Fossils
  • Strong Enough
  • Dig
  • Leave
  • Boat
  • Post
  • Beach
  • End
  • Aria (by Peter Gregson)

Where can you watch Ammonite online?

From 22 October 2021, Ammonite will be available to stream on Amazon Prime.

You can rent or download it from the following platforms now:


Watch the trailer for Ammonite


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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