• Guy Jeffries

Score: A Film Music Documentary Review


Director: Matt Schrader.

Feating: Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, James Cameron, John Debney, Brian Tyler, Trevor Rabin plus many more.

My first love will always be the movies, those glorious moments of escapism that took you to another plain. However, films were a gateway to another love of mine; and that would be music. I cannot count the amount of times I have listened to scores and soundtracks during my day and even sleep, to relive those same glorious moments. I was brought up on the classic masterpieces of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart among many others, but nothing made me feel more passionate for the music than when it they're played to a motion picture.

The use of Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Wagner's "Ride of The Valkyries" in Coppola's Apocalypse Now and Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" in Jewison's Rollerball, among many others, brought a new sense of emotion and imagery to these classics, which is the opposite of what a film score composer does and instead it is their music that empowers the scene creating emotions within the audience that would not have been felt otherwise without it.

This documentary takes an insightful and profound look at this music and the people who create what I would consider to be the modern classics of today. Writer and director, Matt Schrader left a career as an Emmy award winning TV news producer to pursue this extraordinary project, setting down with many of the most famous film composers there are, mostly in their very personal surroundings of their studios and workspaces covering the history of film scores, its evolution and it's relationships with both creators and audiences.

It goes back to the not-so-silent, silent cinema, retracing it's steps throughout the cinematic universe with films and composers like King Kong and Max Steiner, Alex North's Street Car Named Desire and Alfred Newman. It looks at the birth and parents of particular themes that have laid foundations that still resonate within genres today, like John Barry's contribution to James Bond, Ennio Morricone for westerns and Bernard Herrmann for mystery and horror. All of this without forgetting to talk about greats such as Jerry Goldsmith and of course, John Williams.

It takes an intimate look at the relationship between the two creative artistries. The magical connections between screen and sound, rhythm and melody, the effects it has on both the storytelling and the people involved, where the visuals shows the story and the score directs the emotion and the mood. We get a glimpse of the different techniques, approaches and thought processes, the instruments, many of which being very unconventional or unique to create a sound. The reversal of computer to orchestra and how technology still cannot replace that immense sound of a live orchestra.

There's an impressive assembly of composers with heavy hitters like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, David Arnold and Patrick Doyle among many other recognisable names and sounds, all sharing their stories, their troubles and stresses, the pressures of modern day filmmaking, but also seeing the respect and admiration they have for their influences and one another, proving their passion and love for the craft, making it very much a personal labour of love. Besides the composers themselves, directors, historians and critics also share their knowledge on the industry. Leading film music historian, Jon Burlingame, world famous film critic Leonard Maltin and even a professor of psychology Siu-Lan Tan among many more, mall give an incredible depth to the subject.

There's an aura of electricity watching this, feeling the emotion that touches all the people who composed, played and listens to the music. You get a great sense of warmth watching the members of the orchestra create something incredible that will go on to evoke feeling in us viewers. I could actually cry with joy watching John Williams and Spielberg working together, seeing them explain the birth of the Jaws theme. We find out Brian Tyler's strange habit of viewing an audience after watching one of his films, the clockdown clock Trevor Rabin was given by Jerry Bruckheimer and a touching dedication to the legendary and sorely missed James Horner from James Cameron.

I've always had a great love for scores, and honestly thought I couldn't love them anymore but I was so wrong, this documentary has given me a greater understanding and appreciation of something I already love very much. I was hearing things I didn't know I've heard before, reminding very much of why I love both film and the music that comes with, making me want to rewatch all this timeless classics.

Schrader has structured and pieced together a brilliant, indispensable documentary. An absolute must see for all film fans, especially score collectors and appreciators like myself, but it isn't just for people fanatical about film; as a documentary, it's incredibly interesting and will surely give you, as with me, a much higher appreciation for the people behind the scores that'll make you want to listen more and more.

Running Time: 9

The Cast: 9

Performance: 10

Direction: 10

Story: 10

Script: 10

Creativity: 9

Soundtrack: 10

Job Description: 10

The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being the pinnacle documentary dedicated to the world of film scores. I want to watch this again! Plus, it's recently qualified for the 2018 Academy Awards, so here's hoping!

97% 10/10

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