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To Kill a Priest
  • Composed by Georges Delerue
  • Music Box Records / 2014 / 48m

Agnieszka Holland’s highly politically-charged 1988 thriller To Kill a Priest was based on the life and death of a priest at the heart of Poland’s Solidarity movement, Jerzy Popieluszko, who was killed by the security services.  It was a French production and the producers insisted on hiring a French composer rather than the director’s preferred choice of Zbigniew Preisner; and they went and got the best one, Georges Delerue, making a welcome return to Europe.  His score is centred around a song, “The Crimes of Cain”, which boasts a haunting melody and a vocal by Joan Baez, more in the style of Ennio Morricone than something you might associate with Delerue.  There’s a gorgeous guitar solo version in the body of the score and a great orchestral piece based around it, “Sacrilege”, which is sharp and emotionally draining.  The most moving version of all is “Body Discovered”, which is tortured and yet immaculately beautiful.  There’s even a bonus track of Delerue himself humming the melody, which is one of the bizarrest things I’ve heard on a soundtrack album.

The score that weaves around the various arrangements of the main theme is captivating.  It is very heavy stuff – not surprising given the seriousness of the subject matter – with the composer’s trademark lightness left aside.  But having said that – this isn’t a thriller score of action music and edgy suspense.  There’s a kind of dark romance running through it which is very much stamped with the composer’s trademark, a very human side which is half tragedy, half nobility.  At times it is profoundly moving and certainly an essential purchase for fans of the composer.  A suite of source cues sensibly placed at the end of the album is a nice bonus, as are Gergely Hubai’s liner notes.

Rating: **** | |

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