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Despite the Falling Snow
  • Composed by Rachel Portman
  • Cube Soundtracks / 2016 / 52m

Directed by Shamim Sarif based on his own 2004 novel, Despite the Falling Snow follows a former Cold War-era Russian politician who has to confront the truth of the woman he loved in 1950s Moscow, many years later.Providing the music is Rachel Portman, her second score of the year after Race.  Her score is somewhat dour and certainly sombre in tone.  It opens with a very John Barry-like theme representing danger and intrigue, piano and low strings for the introduction before the rest of the strings join in when the dynamic melody emerges.  It’s good and it’s effective, but the body of the theme doesn’t particularly stick in the memory.  The little piano figure though is used repeatedly through the score – it sounds a bit like a product of a previous generation of film scoring, but that’s probably appropriate for this film (and anyway, is no bad thing).

Even the secondary theme (usually also heard on piano) doesn’t stray far from that figure, and sometimes uses it in counterpoint.  And while it’s all very atmospheric and a couple of other melodies do emerge, the 52-minute album is exceptionally repetitive and monochrome.  It’s dark and moody, has a singular purpose and sticks to it rigidly almost throughout.  The exception comes half way through the album in “The Wedding”, an exquisitely beautiful piece of music even though it retains the air of sadness that pervades the rest of the score.  That’s more the Portman style that I like.  There is a little more of that later on (her typically pretty woodwind writing finally gets a chance to shine in “Misha Confesses”) but not enough, really, to raise the album above being a fairly middle-of-the-road one which certainly sounds like a very effective film score but is just too repetitive to be truly successful as music on its own.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Monday 30 May, 2016 at 18:06

    James, you missed ‘STILL LIFE’ a 2014 score that inspired PORTMAN to create heartrending, beautiful themes that one listens to repeatedly. And the orchestral tonalities of a celtic harp, cymbalom, Spanish guitar, dulcimer, piano, saxaphones, viola and other acoustic instruments is innovative and quite exotic. The opening theme is simplistic.. sparsely orchestrated… ordinary. But as the film & score progresses, more instruments appear, the harmony and counterpoint become more emotive, eventually constellating in music of rare, delicate and exquisite beauty. The film was directed by Uberto Pasolini and scooped various awards in Venice and Abu Dhabi — while leading man, Eddie Marsan, won the Best British Actor Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The storyline is depressing as it centres around extreme loneliness and marginalisation of human beings, that has become a worrying social condition in the 21st Century. The film also tackles the horrors of retrenchments, as the job of the leading character [locating the relatives of those who die alone in dire circumstances] becomes redundant. And RACHEL PORTMAN’S soulful music makes us share the uncertainty of life experienced by the Marsan character– a sweetly idealistic, gentle and lonely man. This CD should be part of everyone’s collection!