The music for The Kite Runner has been nominated
in the best film score category in both the Academy Awards and
BAFTAs, so there ought to be no need for me to convince anyone
that it is "good" film music.
But that does raise the perennial question of what
makes such music "good" in the first place. For, paradoxically,
while a score needs to add to the complete cinematic package
by enhancing atmosphere and drawing out and magnifying the audience's
emotions, it actually fails in its proper purpose if it is so
obtrusive that it draws inappropriate attention to itself within
the overall mix.
As a result, anyone who, on the basis of Oscar
or BAFTA nominations, buys a soundtrack album expecting to find
music that will necessarily stand alone as valid - or even enjoyable
- in its own right, runs a significant risk of disappointment.
That said, Alberto Iglesias's musical score is
undeniably effective in adding to the powerful emotional punch
that The Kite Runner packs. It is without question, one
of the past year's most moving and engrossing movies.
The story centres around two boys in pre-Taliban
Afghanistan, the middle class Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and the
servant boy Hassan (a remarkable performance from Zekeria Ebrahimi).
Their friendship, based around a shared enthusiasm for kite
flying, is tragically brought to an end after Hassan is brutally
raped and Amir - who saw the attack but was too scared to intervene
- rejects the friend whose continued presence is a permanent
reminder of his own moral and physical cowardice.
Years later, by now a refugee in America and aware
that Hassan has, in the meantime, been killed, Amir decides
to return to Afghanistan to atone for his earlier sins by rescuing
Hassan's young son from sexual enslavement to a Taliban warlord.
The Kite Runner thus deals with serious
and moving issues of friendship, loyalty and honour and, apart
from the scenes where the boys demonstrate pure joy in flying
their kites, its score is appropriately complex.
Utilising stringed instruments as the santur, oud
and rubab and wind instruments such as the bansuri and the ney,
its predominant characteristics are rhythmic intensity (track
7, Kite Tournament) and plaintive lyricism (track 5, Sin, and
track 12, Truth). Where appropriate - and with varying degrees
of subtlety - Alberto Iglesias's palette augments the eastern
instruments with the full resources of a western symphony orchestra.
Apart from Iglesias's original score, there is
also some well integrated music by two stars of the pre-Taliban
music scene: Ahmad Zahir (even now, nearly 30 years after his
mysterious death, popularly revered as "Afghanistan's Nightingale")
and Tajik singer and émigré Ehsan Aman, still active today though
based in the USA. Contemporary Anglo-Iranian singer Sami Yusuf
adds a song (track 21, Supplication) that conclusively demonstrates
the overriding importance of orchestration and rhythm in creating
atmosphere, for it makes a most evocative and "authentic
sounding" contribution despite being sung in English.
This soundtrack album can be best appreciated as
a memento of the film. If not immediately memorable, the score
is certainly atmospheric and undeniably skilful. Iglesias is
the regular composer for Pedro Almodovar's films and was nominated
for an Oscar in 2005 for his music for The Constant Gardener.
But I would suggest that you hold on and wait for
the eventual release of a DVD where you will appreciate how the
music fits into a much bigger picture - that, moreover, offers
a superbly moving and effective demonstration of the art of cinema.