The Golden Compass/Desplat

November 19, 2007

200px-the_golden_compass.jpgWith a budget in excess of 200 million dollars, New Line Cinema is betting that the first of the Pullman trilogy will be accepted like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films. Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and 12 year old Dakota Blue Richards in her first feature film, the film is directed by Chris Weitz who is relatively new as a director but has a longer list of produced material. The film has not been without controversy, as Weitz started as director, resigned, was replaced by Anand Tucker, who was replaced again by Weitz. Further, the final three chapters of the first of the trilogy have been moved to the second novel The Subtle Knife and the Catholic League has called for a boycott of film citing “athesim for kids” in the story line. Nevertheless, it will make its debut in theaters on December 5th.

Desplat, one of the busier composers, having completed 22 assignments in only 3 years, as well as a wonderful classical CD, has still found more than enough time to craft a wonderful score. The opening track “The Golden Compass” is one of mystery and intrigue setting the mood for the fantasy adventure with all the design and orchestration techniques of Rimsky-Korsakov. As is the case with Desplat there is nothing loud and brash. “Sky Ferry” uses the same style of frantic violins that Desplat uses in The Queen as a background to introduce a theme in which the entire orchestra is used. “Letters from Bolvangar” is a tranquil melody that has become a trademark for Alexandre. Simple and elegant on the keyboard with wonderful delicate harmony from the harp and strings in the background. Not seeing the film (oh I will!) puts me at a disadvantage but the music indicates one of the more peaceful quiet times. “Lyra, Roger, and Billy” is a fun frolic with the entire orchestra participating in this cue which has a small reference to the Orient. The action cue “Battle With the Tartars” is a loud and brash cue, a modern day Night On The Bald Mountain with pounding percussion building to a victory crescendo and then the peaceful quiet of an Irish village with flute and soft strings. “Lee Scoresby’s Airship Adventure” is as the cue indicates, a wonderful soaring ride over the countryside. One of the favorite cues of this reviewer is “Iorek Byrnison”, the armoured bear, a dark mysterious cue with wordless chorus in the background to enhance the mystery even more. The delicate harp, which Desplat has become a master at using effectively plays a prominent role as the cue builds like a symphony movement to a rousing breathtaking conclusion. Another favorite cue albiet a bit on the unusual is “The Ice Bridge” a very modern dissonant classical sounding cue albiet way too short. Many of you will adore the final cue “Lyra” sung by Kate Bush the song which will be featured as the end credits are played. Its very cliche, complete with wind machine and predictable words and orchestration but no matter. It is well sung and will certainly be a hit in the appropriate markets.

This soundtrack is one of the very best to be released in 2007, which this reviewer can say in spite of my admiration and respect for Desplat, as many of you are well aware of. While many times more is not necessarily better in regards to soundtracks the 74+ minutes went by very quickly. All of the 26 tracks were of some interest albiet there were favorites as mentioned above. My highest recommendation goes out to this score. It certainly deserves an Oscar nomination! Whether or not it does is a whole other article. We in the soundtrack world are very aware of the recommendations of the Academy.



3 Responses to “The Golden Compass/Desplat”

  1. […] Posted by Will on November 20, 2007 at 2:10 am The “Film Music: The Neglected Art” blog have a review up of Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Golden Compass. The reviewer hails the soundtrack as “wonderful” and “one of the very best to be released in 2007″, deserving of an Oscar nomination. The main theme is described as possessing “mystery and intrigue setting the mood for the fantasy adventure” with similar praise for all tracks on the album. Kate Bush’s song, Lyra, is called a little cliche, but it will “certainly be a hit in the appropriate markets.” Read more. […]

  2. Equipoise Says:

    Based on your review, you didn’t think much of Kate Bush’s song. That’s ok, she’s not for everybody. However, Kate Bush fans all over the world are chomping at the bit to hear this song, her first new song in over 2 years, and the first time she’s written a song for a film since 1988’s “This Woman’s Work” for She’s Having A Baby. Every fan is going to see the movie multiple times, and buy the soundtrack, but that’s then. Now is now and we’re dying here, so please, please PLEASE tell us more about the song. What is the instrumentation like? Is is slow, is it fast, does it start slow and build, what are the lyrics like? Anything. Please throw us poor souls some more crumbs. Thanks!

  3. sdtom Says:

    The instrumentation is a synthesizer without percussion. Kate is backed by a wordless female choir in selected sections. There is one small crescendo which she nicely does but the overall mood of the song while one of hope is quite subdued. I suspect that the chorus could just be sampling from recordings. I likely would have enjoyed the piece much better if she had been backed with a symphony orchestra which would have evoked emotions far beyond what was offered. When I listen to a lyric I don’t want the words to seem rushed to get it into the allotted necessary time which was the case on a couple of occasions. But the vast majority of you will be pleased! I grew up with Sinatra in my household and his arrangers were some of the best of the time.

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