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GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING
Fantastic, considered, intelligent film score; beautiful, too!
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2004 Pathe; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
If Girl with a Pearl Earring is remembered as anything by film lovers in the years to come, it will sure be as the film which set the wonderful Scarlett Johansson on the road to stardom; for film music lovers, however, it does of course have a far more important place in the art's lineage - as the breakthrough score for Alexandre Desplat, surely destined to become one of the greats in the years to come. While Desplat had been actively scoring films in his native France for about a decade beforehand, it was Girl with a Pearl Earring which got him noticed around the world (and which got him rewarded with Bafta and Golden Globe nominations).
The film is a fictionalised study of the creation of a painting by Vermeer, focusing on his relationship with a young maid; musically, Desplat eschewed the use of period music, instead writing distinctly modern music to work dramatically for the film, yet carefully avoiding obvious anachronisms. The music is anchored around a truly oustanding theme, "Griet's Theme", a beautiful piece highlighting the chamber orchestra, focusing mainly on solo flute but with brief string runs to give the piece life and movement, an approach frequently favoured by Ennio Morricone. The melody itself is not dissimilar to some of John Williams's more serious themes of recent years - I'm thinking of the main part of the theme from Seven Years in Tibet in particular.
There is more sumptuous music to follow - the sprightly waltz "A New Life", a piece full of joy; the dark and imposing "The Master's House", a musical portait of emotional claustrophobia; the delightful "The Birth Feast", an uplifting, summery piece highlighting piccolo trumpet. A real highlight is the masterful "Colours in the Clouds", a stunning piece which rises to rapturous proportions - it's not just beautiful music, it's quite daringly and unusually so. Desplat (as we have since become accustomed to) shows remarkable thought at selecting his orchestration - his use of a chamber orchestra only occasionally augmented by a solo wind or brass instrument manages to make the music retain the feel necessary for a film set in the 16th century, even as his melodic core is set in the 21st.
This is a very accomplished piece of film music, with a rare depth and intelligence. Perhaps there's just one repetition too many of the main theme, but otherwise it's hard to think of a bad word to say about it - and that Desplat has gone on from this exceptional base and has managed to write music which is probably even more impressive since, is great news for the future of film music.