Shigeru Umebayashi's score for Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers is a study in simplicity, featuring a few understated but hypnotic themes that are repeated with different arrangements of traditional Chinese and Western instruments. Considering that Umebayashi also wrote the music for Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, it's understandable that this score's romantic moments are among the standouts. The "Lovers" theme has a pure, yearning melody that works as well in a stripped-down arrangement as it does in the more lavish "Lovers (Flower Garden)" and "Lovers (Mei and Jin)." Soprano Kathleen Battle's version of the song is more overtly Western-sounding but still retains the melody's almost unearthly beauty. The score's bittersweet romance is balanced out by a few percussion-driven tracks that score the film's action sequences, but even pieces like "Battle in the Forest" and "No Way Out" are more melodic than might be expected. Gentle drama and restraint are the watchwords for most of the score, particularly on "Bamboo Forest," "Taking Her Hand," "Ambush in Ten Directions (Shi Mian Mai Fu)," and "The House of Flying Daggers" itself. The score's subtlety helps give House of Flying Daggers its own identity and, in the long run, makes the music more compelling than more bombastic music would be.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
|House of Flying Daggers, film score|