Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer | Contact me
Lovely music sees Marianelli step up another level
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Universal Classics and Jazz; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Ian McEwan's Atonement is widely-regarded as one of the finest novels of the new century - and was also generally considered to be unfilmable, until Joe Wright (who made the impressive Pride and Prejudice) started work on the film, from a script by no less a figure than Christopher Hampton. It has received pretty mixed reviews, but most have been positive about Keira "Twice" Knightley's acting. Wright teamed up once again with his Prejudice composer Dario Marianelli, who seems to be becoming busier and busier as time goes by.
He got his first Oscar nomination for Wright's previous film; it would certainly be no surprise to see him get his second for Atonement. It - like Pride and Prejudice - is that rare film score album which may well have substantial appeal to people who don't usually buy film score albums, and mercifully it's not because it's synthetic orchestral pop. It has the same quality as something like John Barry's Out of Africa or Gabriel Yared's The English Patient - simple, but beautiful, romantic orchestral music which functions very well on its album.
The "gimmick" which has attracted much attention is Marianelli's incorporation of a typewriter into the music - to anyone who has read the novel, it makes perfect sense, and it is used sparingly. It's actually surprisingly effective - accompanying the main theme in the opening "Briony", it is built organically into the flow of the music and so doesn't feel quite so gimmicky as it may have done; and its occasional appearances later in the score do not become jarring. "Robbie's Note" introduces the secondary theme, which has an air of Alexandre Desplat about it - the romance is longing, not obvious, the orchestration careful.
The music is, it has to be say, somewhat repetitive - the first half of the album is pretty much taken up by alternating the themes introduced in the first couple of tracks. They do appear in pretty different guises, but are all written with very similar orchestration - the English Chamber Orchestra plays beautifully, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet is no slouch with the piano. This is most readily-apparent in "Love Letters", where his playing takes on a wonderful quality and brings real life to the music, aided in no small part by Caroline Dale's cello solo. "The Half Killed" sees the music take a considerably darker, more dramatic tone - there is a kind of grandeur Marianelli is able to create while staying in the same sonic world as the more intimate music which preceded it - impressive.
"Elegy for Dunkirk" introduces another new idea, and it's a beauty of a piece - the Cello used to produce its most heartrending sound, and a chorus joining in the music for the first time. It's pretty obvious stuff, I guess - but very effective. It really is a very fine score - focused and direct, and sure to appeal to a wide audience. The album is rounded out in perfect fashion by an exquisite performance by Thibaudet of Debussy's "Clair de Lune", which may be overexposed, but can never lose its beauty. If the film does OK, this one is going to be a very big-seller.