Home > Reviews > UNFAITHFUL – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

UNFAITHFUL – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

unfaithfulOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, the least-known of the triumvirate of Polish film composers that includes Wojciech Kilar and Zbigniew Preisner, continues to make in-roads into Hollywood with his score for Unfaithful, the latest film by maverick director Adrian Lyne. Kaczmarek has had an interesting career to date, scoring mainly art house fare such as Total Eclipse and Bliss, but dabbling in the mainstream with things like Lost Souls and Washington Square without being widely recognized. I have a feeling that Unfaithful could change all that. Basically a three-way character study about the emotional effects of infidelity, Unfaithful stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane as Edward and Connie Sumner, a happily married couple living in the New York suburbs with their precocious young son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). One stormy autumn day, Connie makes a trip to the city, and literally bumps into handsome French book dealer Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). Cleaning her grazed knee in his apartment, Connie obviously feels an attraction to Paul, but ignores her instincts, dismissing them as mere juvenile lust. However, Connie and Paul’s feelings for each other gradually grow too strong to ignore, and eventually they embark on a stormy, passionate affair. Meanwhile, the dependable Edward begins to notice subtle changes in his wife’s behavior, and hires a detective to find out about her illicit daytime liaisons. What transpires thereafter begins to tear at the fabric of the Sumner family, culminating in anger, betrayal and murder.

The vast majority of Adrian Lyne’s movies are rooted in the psychology of sexuality and its impact on the lives of those involved, and Unfaithful is no exception. Lyne’s continued exploration of humanity’s obsession with love, lust and sexuality has earmarked him as a very adult director, but people tend too forget that his visual and dramatic style are wholly exquisite. Unfaithful has a poetic, dream-like look about it, courtesy of DPH Peter Biziou, and boasts a trio of powerhouse performances, especially from Lane. Her portrayal of Connie’s conflicting emotions, which run from unrestrained arousal to intense guilt and self-loathing, and the gamut in between, is remarkable, fully capturing the dizzying array of sensations one must go through in circumstances such as those. Gere, too, does some of his best work in years as the wronged husband: solid, reliable, but filled with confusion and vengeance when he discovers his wife’s unfaithfulness.

As well as his continued explorations of sex, Adrian Lyne has a history of hiring top composers to score his movies: Jack Nitzsche worked on 91/2 Weeks, Maurice Jarre on Fatal Attraction, John Barry on Indecent Proposal, Ennio Morricone on Lolita, and so on. Kaczmarek continues that trend with a score that could see him finally receive a degree of mainstream recognition. Basically, Unfaithful is a one-theme score, but such is its construction and exquisite, intelligent orchestration, it never feels repetitive or long-winded. Instead, Kaczmarek weaves a beautiful musical tapestry of moody textures, employing combinations of piano, strings and accordion to illustrate the triangular nature of the film’s central relationships.

Kaczmarek’s main theme is ever-present throughout the score, usually performed on solo piano by Leszek Mozdzer, with a slow, evocative string wash backing. It’s not the kind of melody that leaps up and grabs you by the eardrums – instead, it gradually enfolds and envelops you in its grasp without you realizing. It has a sort of timeless quality that leaves a definite impression. Haunting, in a non-stereotypical way, gently erotic in a non-blatant way, extremely beautiful, and wholly captivating. It gets its most lush performance in the title track, ‘Unfaithful’, develops into a heartbreaking lament-cum-reconciliation in ‘Burning Pictures’, and receives modern, impressionistic piano variations in the fourteenth cue, also titled ‘Unfaithful’.

Cleverly, Kaczmarek uses specific instrumental performances to illustrate the three central characters in the film, and works them into the score at relevant moments. The piano is used to depict Connie as the central character at different times: quiet and restrained in the lovely opening track ‘At Home’ and the gentle ‘Braille’, more animated and alive in ‘The Wind’, tinged with sadness in ‘I Hate Myself’. Richard Gere’s grounding influence as Edward is depicted by a calming bed of strings, and the gently romantic interplay between husband and wife is brought to the fore through cues such as ‘Video on the Bed’ and ‘Cold Bathtub’, which mixes the two elements. The enigmatic, fiery Paul is depicted by the introduction of a cimbalom and accordion into the mix, bringing a wantonness and vibrant disharmony to the score. The ‘Triangle’ cue, where the three instrumental elements come together for the first time, is nothing short of genius, with the Gallic orchestration blatantly impinging and taking over from the Connie and Edward motifs, perfectly echoing Paul’s encroachment into their marriage.

Later in the score, Kaczmarek interpolates two specific vocal performances into the music, courtesy of Jorane and Susan Deyhim. Jorane, a Norwegian vocalist who recently worked with Marco Beltrami on I Am Dina, contributes immeasurably to the score’s impact, breathing soothingly behind the lazy pianos of ‘Farewell’ and ‘Car Wash’, turning almost orgasmic during ‘Sudden Turn’, simmering with passion in the tumultuous ‘The Obsession’, and cooing a haunting version of the main melody in the conclusive ‘Silence’. Meanwhile, Deyhim’s vaguely Arabic humming inflections add a level of mystery and danger to ‘The Visit’.

I can see how the pervading quiet mood and gentle aspect of Unfaithful could prove to be a little boring for some listeners, especially those whose tastes lie more in the action music arena. But, for some reason, this score totally and utterly captivated me from beginning to end. I can’t really put my finger on what it is about Kaczmarek’s work that appeals to me so much. It’s certainly attractive, and well-constructed, and beautifully performed – but as well as this, it has a certain feeling, a certain pervading notion of happiness and sorrow combined, that makes it utterly compelling. For me, it’s one of the best scores of 2002.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

  • At Home (1:36)
  • The Wind (2:21)
  • Video on the Bed (1:20)
  • Braille (1:57)
  • Triangle (3:04)
  • Farewell (1:34)
  • Cold Bathtub (1:46)
  • Discovery (1:08)
  • Sudden Turn (2:48)
  • I Hate Myself (2:52)
  • Unfaithful (2:35)
  • Car Wash (1:30)
  • The Visit (2:18)
  • Unfaithful (Piano Variation) (2:40)
  • The Globe (2:03)
  • The Obsession (2:48)
  • Burning Pictures (4:51)
  • Together (3:01)
  • Silence (1:48)

Running Time: 44 minutes 03 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6356 (2002)

Music composed by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Conducted by Michael Nowak. Orchestrations by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Dylan Maulucci and Bruce Babcock. Featured musical soloists Leszek Mozdzer, Marta Stanislawska, Chet Swiatkowski and Frank Marocco. Special vocal performances by Jorane and Sussan Deyhim. Recorded and mixed by Rafal Paczkowski. Edited by Christopher Kennedy. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

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