Monday, 12 October 2009
James Newton Howard, The Village (2004)
This particular M. Night Shyamalan film is not his worst, which (of course) is a faint-praise-damning way of saying it's no masterpiece either. I enjoyed it when I first saw it, although I find it has diminished in my mind and imagination since then--in part, but not entirely, because its twist-ending inevitably retrospects the entire text into a malodorously wet-fur shaggy dog story. Certainly, I've no particular desire to watch the film again.
But I find myself returning over and again to James Newton Howard's movie soundtrack: a piece of music that grows and deepens the more I listen to it -- not only beautiful, but emotionally eloquent and cohesive, and occasionally genuinely extraordinary. I could say more. The Lark Ascending vibe of the opening track ('Noah Visits') is lovely, but if this were all there were to it (if, like John Williams or the Gladiator soundtrack, it was nothing but expert second hand classical pastiche) the whole thing would pall after a set number of listens. This doesn't. In fact I'd say it slips free of derivativeness almost right at the start, when solo violinist Hilary Hahn's fluidly serpentine arpeggios begin coiling. From there on it's all win: the whole suite has the mellow tonal richness, and melodic rightness, of a great work of musical art. This is probably not the first time a musical para-text has succeeded, as art, much more completely than the original text it was commissioned to embroider, but for my money it is one of the most notable.