CD Review: Amelia

What’s that I hear coming over the horizon? Could it be? Yup, that’s an 8-bar phrase as sure as I’m sitting here. How did that sneak into modern film scoring?

Gabriel Yared‘s score for AMELIA, the biopic of American aviator Amelia Earhart who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world, is a grand return to the kind of sweeping orchestral writing that is all too rare in today’s film scores.

As you’d expect from the Oscar-winning composer of THE ENGLISH PATIENT and COLD MOUNTAIN, Yared’s score flies on the wings of Earhart’s story with soaring themes. Nearly all the seeds of the score can be found in the first track, “Introducing Amelia.”

The track begins with an oscillating descending 3-note motif that leads into the ravishing main theme in the strings. When the French horns take up the theme, you feel the majesty of flying among the clouds with only the ground far below and God up above. The track continues with a triplet accompaniment for drama and syncopated pizzicato strings that sound like Morse code. I defy you to listen to the crescendo that follows into the secondary theme and not get goosebumps.

Amelia soundtrack
“Introducing Amelia”
“No Longer a Passenger”

Yared contributes an ethnic flavor to the score by using percussion, Indian flutes, and the arghul, a double-tube Arabic wind instrument that combines a clarinet’s reedy sound with a bagpipe-like drone. The music takes a dramatic turn in tracks like “No Longer a Passenger” (which ends with a delicate, chirping duo flute accompaniment), “Hawaii Crash,” and of course Earhart’s legendary “Final Flight.” Yared’s lovely piano playing enhances the score throughout.

Yared’s score for AMELIA stands out if for nothing else than its retro use of long, melodic themes that once used to populate film music. I hesitate to say that the composer and filmmakers were brave for choosing such an old-fashioned sound (and I mean that as a compliment), even if the film’s period lends itself to it. But in today’s Hollywood, “brave” it sadly is.

AMELIA is the kind of score that would have been an Oscar shoo-in in the old days. I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore. The film’s poor box office will hurt its chances of a nomination. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed nonetheless.

  1. Somehow I missed this gem of a score this year. Very nice and somewhat in the same vein as an earlier treat from this year Un Homme et Son Chien by Philippe Rombi.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Travis. It wasn’t hard to miss this score. The film opened a few weeks ago to some rough reviews and the music took a beating in the process. The CD was just released last week.

      I’m not familiar with the movie you mentioned. Though it does have Jean-Paul Belmondo AND a dog. How bad could it be? :) I’m not sure if it came and went in NYC yet or not. I’ll be on the lookout for it if it hasn’t. I just listened to the clips of the score on Screen Archives. It’s lovely! Now I’m gonna have to buy it. My wallet does NOT thank you, but I do. :)

  2. Pingback: 2009 Satellite Award Nominees | Film Score Click Track
  3. After reading Mr. Broxton’s review I immediately downloaded the score and I must report that I enjoyed it thoroughly! It’s rare these days to be able to listen to a score recording from beginning to end without finding something to wince at.

    I can also say that there were echoes of Jon Williams’ cantata for Spielberg’s A.I- Artificial Intelligence.

    I’m now going to view the film just to see how effective (or not) the music was.

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