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Gorgeous period score from Delerue
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1992 Varese Sarabande; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Fancying itself as a kind of cross between The Mission and Dances with Wolves, Black Robe is about a Jesuit priest trying to convert some Huron Indians, with limited success. The clash of cultures is what the film focuses on - think how much better we'd all be if we learned to live with our enemies, instead of kill them (or force them to change their religion) - a worthy cause, but not executed particularly well in Bruce Beresford's film. Several of the director's films were scored by the great Georges Delerue (including the composer's final film,Rich in Love) though sadly the director's only particularly noteworthy film - Driving Miss Daisy - went to someone else. (Such, it seemed, was Delerue's luck in the last part of his career, which was dominated by films whose distance beneath him could only be measured in astronomical units).
Delerue adopted a slightly plaintive approach to this film, certainly nothing like Ennio Morricone's for The Mission - instead Delerue concentrates on an "internal" portrait of emotion, as was his way - there's certainly no "landscape scoring" going on. The score is built around a solid, beautiful main theme which has an appropriate period feel, but also an air of mystery - it is heard frequently through the score. While not presenting variations on that theme, there are a few dark, pretty fierce action cues, which are somewhat raw and with a tribal feel - the percussion-heavy, sometimes-dissonant "Daniel Rescues La Forgue" and "The Iroquois Attack" are good examples. The most impassioned piece in the body of the score is "The Natives Abandon La Forgue", which opens with more dissonant suspense but turns into the most harrowing, intense portrait of anguish and despair.
As the score nears its conclusion, some much warmer, melodic material is introduced, beginning with "Chomina Decides to Go Back" and then being delevoped further in the outstanding, heartmelting "The Escape". However, for the piece de resistance you have to stay until the very end, for "Libera Me", a stunning aria sung by boy soprano - deeply, profoundly moving and heavenly, it's a splendid way of ending the score. The album, sadly, is now pretty hard to find - but it is worth the hunt, for it contains a rich, grown-up score which was up there with the best from the final stages of this remarkable film composer's career.