Cato Hoeben

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Considered a unique take on the vampire-genre, ‘Rose: A Love Story’ is a psychological thriller / horror set in a secluded forest during winter that stars Rose (Sophie Rundle) and Sam (Matt Stokoe). Having carved out a life away from society and relying on the land for sustenance, Sam makes sporadic trips to town for essentials and is deeply protective of Rose who has a strange condition. Initially, their story appears to be a simple narrative of a devoted couple with a few communication quirks, but as the plot unfolds, it takes an unexpected turn into discovering dark secrets, claustrophobic over-protectiveness and the arrival of an unexpected guest.

Predominantly set within the confines of a dimly lit cabin, Rose and Sam live a secluded life with an unusual shape to the day. In a peculiar blue-lit room, Sam practices an unconventional method of blood extraction involving leeches to make sure Rose can survive her condition.

Sam’s unconventional rituals and steadfast commitment to Rose form the foundation of their isolated life. While Rose yearns for a more conventional existence, Sam seems content within their secluded bubble, yet the equilibrium they’ve built faces disruption when Amber (Olive Gray) abruptly enters their lives, casting a shadow on their serene facade.

Beyond being a romantic horror story with a unique twist, it offers a subtle social commentary on how society treats individuals with hidden conditions, from eating disorders to mental health struggles.


About the score

‘Rose: A Love Story’ is Director Jennifer Sheridan’s debut feature and I was honoured to be a part of such a beautifully filmed and acted feature. When approaching the score, Jennifer wanted me to take a very subtle approach so that the acting would highlight the loving yet tense and almost ominous relationship between the two protagonists. Shifting between the feeling that Rose is being kept at home against her will vs being protected by her partner Sam was key and to do that Jennifer wanted me to create feelings of ‘claustrophobia’ and ‘heaviness’ without overwhelming the audience and leading them too much.

With that brief in mind, I initially created a guide track featuring simple motif on a live cello which ended up becoming a key theme of the film as Jennifer fell in love with it. This recurring motif set an early tone in the film together with drones, pads and pulsing organic synths which she tells me particularly helped guide the edit of the film.

The character of the score also came from layering in foley recordings of things like a cooking pot bowed with a violin bow that was pitched down and recordings of lentils being stirred in a bowl of water with many effects added to them to pull out the harmonics of the sounds. Something I felt captured the other-worldly feel of Rose and her lust for blood was a recording of my unborn daughter’s heartbeat which I incorporated into the score, as can be heard in the cue ‘Blood Flows’.

The micro budget for the film meant I had to be creative with how I recorded live instruments. So while there was a bit of session work like recording a cellist for various tracks and a violinist for cues like Mozart’s Violin Sonata No 26, the majority came from home recording. I also recorded my wife for the vocals heard in the score which, like the cello motif, became an important theme within the film. It took a number of sessions to get the right tone for the vocals to be soft and delicate yet haunting, but I’m particularly proud of the cue ‘Back Before Nightfall’ which features these vocals.

Lastly, the cue ‘Hunter Gatherer’, found early on in the film, was one of the hardest tracks to get right. It needed to feel heavy but not ominous as this cue is an introduction to Sam and keeping the ambiguity of his character was important. Getting the delicate balance right was a challenge and there were quite a few changes on this cue to reach that point and make sure it fit Jennifer’s vision.