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The Two Popes
  • Composed by Bryce Dessner
  • Milan / 53m

A Netflix film examining the relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and his successor Pope Francis, The Two Popes has been acclaimed in particular for its performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. For the music, director Fernando Meirelles turned to guitarist and occasional composer Bryce Dessner. His gentle score begins with a piece for solo guitar, “Walls”, which suggests things might remain on familiar ground for Dessner, but that’s a bit deceptive – he has written classical compositions in the past and it turns out that there is more to this than that (admittedly lovely) opening piece would suggest.

The second score cue, “Dialogues”, is a brief but compelling piano piece; not long after there is a fairly conventional piece of orchestral underscore, the impressive “Ratzinger Election”, which is as expansive as things get. Dessner focuses on calmness and serenity throughout, sometimes in contrast to the highly controversial issues discussed by the two men, and as an approach it certainly works – not just in the film but also on the album. Even when the music does go into darker territory (such as in the impressive “Dirty War”) it never turns over into being oppressive. The composer does manage to provide a number of colours even while sticking firmly in the realm of the subtle – whether guitar, piano, sax, strings or sometimes an Argentinian flavour representing Francis’s background (“Siesta de Abril” is wonderful). There is also a handful of terrific source music cues (not by Dessner) which concentrate on that latter mood. It’s an enjoyable album: the music does not jump around calling attention to itself (indeed, one of its main functions seems to be to avoid doing that) but that doesn’t stop it being interesting as well as very relaxing.

Rating: *** | |

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