It is depressing! It goes so far as to lack the plain decency of being touchingly
dismal (like the sort that can offer a good cry -- "Schindler's List," or
possibly "Silence of the Lambs.") It is oppressive. Woeful! Yet why am I
so much as vaguely recommending it...
Mike Figgis set out to create a claustrophobic and furiously erotic score
for his film, and the man succeeds very well. "Miss Julie" is a fair soundtrack
of classical dimensions. It is purely chamber music, and is in fact based
on a string quartet Figgis composed for a play at the National Theater some
time ago. From the start, the title theme sets a queasy tone with a short
variation on the traditional Dies Irae that is everything the 'Day of wrath'
darkly suggests. The composer seems particularly keen on intense, close-knit
cello solos (including one, the obvious 'Solo Cello,' with a gorgeous performance
Dale) and lengthy portamenti punctuated by fierce, jerky passages. The only
relatively lighthearted cues are two faux folk pieces featuring an additional
fiddle and percussionist. The performances by the National Quartet (tracks
1-11 & 20) and Medici Quartet (tracks 12-19) are well up to the score's
challenges, of course. Figgis' underscore is considerably more than a willful
mixture of minor chords into an uncomfortable potpourri, but the music certainly
is cheerless to the extent where I would not recommend it to anyone with
destructive tendencies. It is tough going.
Whatever impossibility there is in terms of courteous listening, the redeeming
feature of the score stands on the shoulders of creative professionalism.
It is possible to enjoy the embodiment, if not the spirit, of a musical
selection. Along those lines, I prefer Mychael
Danna's similarly disturbing "Felicia's Journey" slightly more; Figgis produces
some of the same repeating trickery, and is not quite as individualized about
his handling of it. Workmanship prevails in both, however. The "Miss Julie"
soundtrack is intelligent, pointed, assertive, serious, and dreary.