Stephen Daldry's film adaptation of Bernhard Schlink's best-selling novel The Reader tells the story of a German teenager of the 1950s who has an affair with an older woman, then grows up to discover she is on trial as a Nazi war criminal. It is, thus, a story of illicit romance mixed with the main character's realization that things can be other than what he thinks they were. Nico Muhly's score for the film responds to the themes of the story by presenting delicate, gentle music, slow piano cadences with discreet accompanying strings. But then, without changing the overall approach, Muhly makes things more complex, adding darker tones as the plot becomes more complicated. By the point of the appropriately titled cue "Not What I Expected," the music is reflecting the troubling nature of the revelations in the story. Muhly's basic musical equivalent to the movie's theme is a disturbing dichotomy of time signatures, in which, for example in "The Failed Visit" and "Letters," a primary instrument, usually the piano, plays in repeating patterns in one time while the strings play in another. The effect is disquieting, yet subtle, reinforcing what's going on on the screen.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Reader, film score|