- Composed by Rachel Portman
- Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 42m
A period drama set in the 18th century, Belle is based on the true story of an illegitimate young mixed-race woman (Dido Elizabeth Belle) shunned by society, who then sets out to change that society with the young man she meets and falls in love with by putting in train a set of events that would ultimately lead to the abolition of slavery in Britain. Rachel Portman’s no stranger to this type of film, having scored many historical dramas, particularly ones with romantic elements; and her score is exactly as you would expect it to be. The lovely main theme is just unfailingly charming: romantic and upbeat when it’s first heard, it’s so typical of Portman, a memorable and unfailingly attractive melody.
Essentially the album consists of 42 minutes of repeats of that theme plus a secondary theme which itself is a variant on it. These range from flowing, colourful arrangements to much more lightly-orchestrated darker, more dramatic ones. Fortunately these shifts in mood – combined with the relatively short playing time – are enough to keep things interesting enough to sustain the album without it feeling like its too repetitive. Especially the weightier more dramatic sections of the album as it progresses provide enough meat on the bone. Having said that, if like me you’ve heard a reasonable amount of Rachel Portman’s music then you may wonder if this strays far enough away from past works to warrant purchasing the album. If you’re a devoted fan of the composer then clearly the answer is yes but if your interest in her music is more casual then perhaps not. Don’t get me wrong – it’s lovely music and there’s just about enough variety to make Belle a satisfying listening experience – but it does stretch its core of quality material rather thin, so it never feels like a truly substantial album despite its attractions.