There are movies where you notice the soundtrack, and others where you don't. The latter is usually considered ideal, and yet it's impossible to ignore Philip Glass' pervasive, all-encompassing soundtrack while watching Stephen Daldy's celebrated follow-up to Billy Elliot (the same could just as easily be said of Elmer Bernstein's majestic music for Far From Heaven). This isn't such a bad thing -- far from it. The piano-dominated score, incorporating motifs from Glass' Satyagraha, Glassworks, and Solo Piano is, by turns, lush, sumptuous, and stirring. Michael Riesman is the pianist, the Lyric Quartet provides the strings, and Nick Ingman is the conductor. The fruits of their labor -- and artistry -- add depth to the action on screen without ever quite overwhelming it. The complicated storyline, based on Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (which was, in turn, inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway) is inherently dramatic and emotionally compelling enough that it doesn't really "need" music to get its message across. And the actors, including Nicole Kidman (Virginia Woolf), Julianne Moore (Laura Brown), and Meryl Streep (Clarissa Vaughn), breathe such life into these three distinct characters, living in three different time periods, that they don't need really need the music either. But it's always there, like a ghostly presence in each woman's life, helping to tie their divergent storylines together as much as the themes that are common to each. In the end, the score is as much a unifying force as Peter Boyle's deft editing and, most importantly, Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, which was originally to be called The Hours. The CD booklet includes liner notes by Cunningham (focusing on his longtime admiration for Glass), excerpts about each character from his novel, and stills from the film.
AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy
|The Hours, film score|