S. Byatt's Booker-prize winning romantic novel comes to the screen with an old fashioned
Late Romantic classical score by Gabriel Yared that looks back to the classical
film scores of Korngold, Steiner and Rózsa (the latter most noticeable in
cues like 'Let Down Your Hair
There are all the flourishes and phrasings one associates with period romantic stories
but used with great flair and subtlety. The influence of Brahms is noticeable.
The score opens most impressively with the main theme presented
as an operatic aria in the grand Italian tradition, Puccini-like sung passionately
by tenor Ramón Vargas. This lovely theme is presented in various guises through
the album, in the manner of a formal Viennese waltz, but with gently romantic
commentary, in 'Gentle Possession'; as a Brahms-like string quartet in the
cue 'Possession'; and in full poignant orchestral dress in the final cue of
the same name.
The story follows two loves: in the nineteenth century of two Victorian
poets (played by Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam) who find unbridled love
despite the strictures of a repressive society; and the other between the
two young academics, in modern times, who are researching the lives of the
The 67 minutes score has a few longueurs as might be expected
but the beauty and delicacy of the writing is undeniable. Although most of
the music is pensive, poignant, sentimental and yearning and consequently
slow–moving, the colourful and varied orchestrations keep the ear attentive.
The pastoral qualities of tracks like 'Maud and Roland in North Yorkshire'
and 'Let Down Your Hair' remind one of Ralph Vaughan Williams writing in this
vein. For, I imagine, some of the darker moments, Yared falls back on some
of his staccato sting chord figures from 'The
Talented Mr Ripley. There is an intriguing eeriness about 'Christabel's
Room' a concealing mistiness about 'Dolly Hides a Secret' that hints on an
unwelcome pregnancy, a harshness about 'Exile in Brittany' and mounting anticipation
and release as the defiant statement of the main theme in 'Renewed Correspondence';
and a beautiful Brahmsian delicacy for 'You Have a Daughter'.
In a particularly fallow year for new film music, this old-fashioned
romantic score is very welcome. Yared gets better and better