I had a peculiar experience watching
this movie because of its score. I found both very moving and enjoyable, but
the music kept drawing attention to itself. There are several levels at which
film music can Ďpop you out of a filmí (as I call it). More often than not,
when music does this itís a completely negative thing; poor choices on the part
of the composer. The problem I had here was that emotionally, tonally and in
every supportive way the music fit beautifully. But stylistically it didnít.
Again, more often than not this too is a completely negative thing. Somehow,
as is brought home by the thoroughly enjoyable listening experience of the album,
the stylistic anachronisms donít matter.
This is 1950s Vietnam, and as you
might expect, Armstrong has utilised Asian percussion, pipes and a solo vocalist
to depict that backdrop. For the quieter moments in the love triangle between
Michael Caine, Do Thi Hai Yen and Brendan Fraser are delicately scored. This
is the connecting thread in amongst everything else the film is saying and doing.
It is in its political and dramatic aspects that the music is crafted as something
youíd expect to hear in a contemporary setting. Drum loops and beats sit atop
all else whenever a dramatic interlude erupts. There are 2 particularly obvious
moments of this. "Death in the Square" is a familiar scene
to anyone whoís seen The Killing Fields, and similarly itís wrung for
all its emotionally affecting worth. The music cue begins softly to accentuate
the quiet that follows an explosion, but then builds with echoing metallic rhythms
as Caine flounders amongst the devastation. In fact, there are several of these
sample rhythms that re-appear almost as motivic devices in their own way, and
link the horror of one moment with the 2nd standout scene when Fraserís
mysterious death is explained in the finale ("The Ritual of Revenge").
On a side note, the song being
touted for Oscar consideration - "Nothing In This World (Song For Phoung)"
performed by Hong Nhung Ė has a chorus that bears striking resemblance to "This
Love" from his The Space Between Us albumÖ
Iím put on the spot for awarding
a star rating to this therefore. For its effectiveness Iíd award 4. For its
appropriate use, Iíd say 3. As an album Iíd say 4. But then after all that,
this is a Promo disc few will get their hands on. That therefore means the review
is more about the music in the film than this album. In which case the mark
below of 3.5 is a reflection of my peculiar viewing experience!