June 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s RECOMMENDATION June 2003

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Final Solution  
Music composed by John Sponsler & Tom Gire
  Available from Crown Video  
Reviewed from a promotional copy without product code
Running time: 38.49

final solution

Final Solution is not, as I first supposed, and I imagine so will almost everyone else, a Holocaust drama, but a true life story set in the later years of South Africa’s Apartheid regime. There is a Nazi connection, in that the film unfolds in flash-back from 1993, at the time of South Africa’s first democratic elections, telling the story of how Gerrit Wolfaardt (played by Jan Ellis), transformed from a para-military racist modelling his views on those of Adolf Hitler, to a Christian determined to bring peace between blacks and whites. The film has been widely praised for, unlike so many "message movies", not forgetting to be a good, compelling entertainment with strong characters first, trusting that the message would follow implicitly. Perhaps because of this, Final Solution has won six awards to-date, including the Crystal Heart at the 2002 Heartland Film Festival, and "Best Picture" at the ICVM awards. Finally, and of most interest to FMOTW, the music by John Sponsler and Tom Gire was cited as "Best Soundtrack" at the 2003 Down Under Film Festival in Darwin, Australia.

Anyone who read my review of Hans Zimmer’s score for Tears of the Sun last month will not be surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed this score. Though not with the multi-million dollar production values of a Media Ventures soundscape, Sponsler and Gire have worked in a similar vein, delivering a diverse multi-cultural melting pot of musical styles. The album features a small orchestra consisting of strings and woodwind (there is no brass), two choirs – The Sdasa Chorale and the Khayalitsha Gospel Choir – an ethnic percussion group called The Khoisan, plus various soloists performing ethnic and traditional instruments, chants, body percussion, pennywhistle & ethnic flutes, as well as a soprano vocal soloist, Nqobile Sibeko. There is some electronic augmentation, though no synthesiser programmer or performer is credited.

What it all adds up to is a score which ranges from the beauty of "Celeste’s Theme" and the "Redemption Theme", through to the percussive violence of "Angry Mob" and "Foot Chase". Worked into this tapestry are many atmospheric textures, chants, gorgeous soprano vocals, and Gospel hymns or hymnal style writing. The disc opens with what may actually be the end title, a title song with Nqobile Sibeko making a powerfully emotive contribution to this title anthem. Unfortunately there are no lyrics included. "Township" offers a wordless uplifting male vocal against light percussion and bird sounds, a joyful introduction before the more subdued tracks to follow, such as the sultry, slow-moving and dreamy semi-electronic "Flashback" and the nostalgic "Grandpa’s Theme".

Later cues such as "Moses’ Story" and "Interrogation" are particularly effective, the later being, rather than brutal, a restlessly cycling, ever growing anthem of endurance and defiance – think of the sound world of Vangelis’ 1492: Conquest of Paradise and you won’t be far wrong – again greatly lifted by the wonderfully rich vocals of Nqobile Sibeko.

Elsewhere, considering the triumphant choral sound which breaks out at various points, together with the sheer emotional tenderness of the instrumental themes, while the musical approach is very different, one might think of Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, which sets the beauty of Chopin against the horror of the Nazis’ Final Solution. Both films offer music as an implicit comment against the ultimate failure of evil, underlining the indestructible nature of the human spirit, all of which culminates in the final track, a simple hymn arranged for solo voice and piano. The title, "Thank You Lord", sums up the message of the film in a way which is fresh, direct and compelling – a far cry from the rote, insipid music currently infecting Western churches with its formula pop-lite mediocrity.

The only problem one might have with the disc is that many of the 24 cues are very short, but then that is the nature of film music and at least it would seem all the music from the movie is here. Alternatively, one can accept the disc as a refreshingly diverse set of moods and melodies, Uplifting and in places quiet lovely, Final Solution is a significant score which will find favour with any who appreciate African themed music, warm hearted melody, of which there is an abundance here to be enjoyed, or simply a finely crafted film scoring. Highly recommended.

Gary Dalkin

**** 4

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