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The Giver
  • Composed by Marco Beltrami
  • Sony Classical / 2014 / 49m

Based on the popular novel for teenagers by Lois Lowry, The Giver focuses on a young man who, after being appointed the “receiver of memories” finds out he must escape from his apparently idyllic existence, where all is not as it seems.  The film’s got an impressive cast and crew – it’s directed by Phillip Noyce and features Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in the main roles for grown-ups.  

Noyce generally takes a “horses for courses” approach to choosing his composers and for this course the horse he chose was Marco Beltrami, probably delighted to flex his muscles on something which is neither an action thriller nor a horror movie.  It’s a very different kind of score than we’re used to hearing from the talented composer, evidently immediately in the beautiful main title piece, which introduces his sweeping and lovely main theme, heavenly chorus accompanying the strings and subtle electronics.  It’s got a very slight edge to it, hinting at what is to come later, but otherwise it’s sweetness and light all the way in the score’s opening portion.

Marco Beltrami

Marco Beltrami

“Jonas Gets the Gig” is along similar lines – again the edge is there, suggestively jabbing that all is not what it seems, but on the surface it’s just beautiful.  There’s a wonderful serenity there, pushed still further in the outstanding “Colour”, a gentle piano solo accompanied by that choir and strings.  In “Arriving at the Giver’s”, those strings take on a slightly more sinister air; again it’s quite subtle and the mood is quickly reversed again in the gorgeous “First Memory”, one of the most heavenly pieces I’ve ever heard from Beltrami.  After a couple of very brief cues, the sumptuous “Tray Ride” continues in the same vein.

Then comes the start of the score’s shift into darker territories – “Happiness and Pain” is a cue of three parts, initially light before a passage of dissonance takes over – ending up with the now-familiar theme in a changed vein, a sadness running through it.  Even the beautifully romantic “What Is Love?” has an undercurrent of uncertainty, a tentative feeling of doubt.  The musical transformation then concludes in “War”, as dark as its title suggest, with the first hints of the kind of action music for which this composer is so well-known.

“The Kiss” is not without warmth, but this is not the kind of ravishing emotional outpouring heard earlier in the score – it’s a more complex emotional portrait now.  A growing sense of desperation develops in “Jonas Runs Away”, before the unease grows further in “Accelerated Training”, dark and unsentimental but with just a few bars of determined heroism as the cue ends; then comes the first really overt action music, “Escape from the Nursery”, full of brassy bluster and excitement.  “Desert Ride” begins slightly more expansively, but it’s not long before it turns into a tight, tense piece, an air of menace developing.  Darker still is “Capturing Jonas”, an action track as black as coal full of interesting textures.

The score edges towards its conclusion in “The Mountain and Despair”, which continues the action music but now starts to bring the score back full circle, adding in the choral sounds of the earlier moments for that ethereal edge once again.  “Rosebud” then completes that circle, passing through a range of feelings on its way to its uplifting conclusion (with some more contemporary teeny-bopper electronics).  To finish it all, there’s a haunting end title piece in which Beltrami presents his main theme once more, in a particularly heart-melting arrangement.  The Giver is a very impressive piece of work, a score with a clear and brilliantly-developed dramatic journey – on the surface it’s impressive enough, but dig a little deeper and there are riches to be explored.  I suspect this is going to prove to be one of the most popular scores he’s ever written.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Mike (Reply) on Monday 11 August, 2014 at 01:14

    Glad to hear this is good. I haven’t really enjoyed a Beltrami score since Hellboy, his best work.

  2. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Monday 11 August, 2014 at 03:35

    Your review really made me think you were going to award five stars, or at least 4 and a half. Sounds like a great score.

  3. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Monday 11 August, 2014 at 04:54

    I’m glad to hear that this turned out well, considering how much of a lame cash-grab the movie is: it wasn’t written for teenagers and didn’t feature any, but they aged up the characters to latch on to the current young adult movie craze.

  4. Callum Hofler (Reply) on Monday 11 August, 2014 at 10:21

    I’m nearly finished listening to it now, and I must say, it is glorious! Subtle and beautifully composed, it’s a breeze to listen to.

  5. Matt C. (Reply) on Tuesday 12 August, 2014 at 00:27

    This is a great score. It’s lovely, inspiring and one of Beltrami’s best. It’s up there with Soul Surfer, Hellboy and I, Robot, IMO.

  6. sdtom (Reply) on Monday 18 August, 2014 at 14:53

    I went and viewed the film yesterday and found that the music fit the film very well although I found it a bit overpowering in spots. Sleeping on it I came to the conclusion this is one to avoid on both counts

  7. […] The Giver soundtrack, with music by Marco Beltrami and additional music by Brandon Roberts, is now available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes. Here are some of the links to recent reviews of the score: Movie Wave ; Syncrotones. […]