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Gently moving drama score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Banana Films; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
I'm surprised there haven't been more quality films about Nelson Mandela, probably the most inspirational global political figure of the 20th century, and one with a remarkable story. Getting reviews most films can only dream of, Goodbye Bafana has been wowing the festival crowds since its debut at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. It still awaits an American release. The film stars Dennis Haysbert as Mandela and Joseph Fiennes as his prison warden for 27 years, a man who starts as a profound racist but gradually comes to sympathise with his prisoner. Director Bille August turned for the music to Dario Marianelli, whose career has really taken off in the last couple of years.
His music is excellent - subtly moving, rather than gut-wrenching, it carefully weaves a spell without ever becoming intrusive or melodramatic. It opens with the excellent "The Harbour" which introduces the fine main theme, given a gentle vocal performance by Madosini - it's highly reminiscent of the sort of effect George Fenton attained in Cry Freedom, appropriately enough. The score is at its best when Marianelli is using this theme in various guises, sometimes with the vocalist and sometimes played by a viola da gamba - he occasionally simply extracts an element from it and builds a cue around that, such as in the profoundly moving "Chocolate" - the more modern sound which closes the cue is perhaps a little unfortunate, but as a whole it has a lot of power.
As the score moves on the slightly more modern sound (which comes more through the harmonic language than any instrumental choices) becomes more prevalent, but by and large the composer works this in respectfully and it is entirely in keeping with the earlier moments. I'm impressed by how well Marianelli managed to make the music moving and, above all, interesting throughout despite using what sounds like only a very modest orchestra - it's a relatively short score (take the unrelated song off the end and it runs just over half an hour) and still quite repetitive, and it's so unassuming that I can imagine some listeners may not be fully engaged, but I think it's worth a bit of effort exploring it more deeply to uncover the subtleties and nuance that Marianelli brings to this impressive score.