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AUSTRALIA – David Hirschfelder

November 28, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A romantic epic in the grand Hollywood tradition, Australia is director Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic ode to his homeland. The main focus of the story is the romance between English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) and rugged cowboy Drover (Hugh Jackman), and is set against a backdrop of some of the most important events in early Australian history, including the expansion into Aboriginal territory by the white settlers and the social and racial tensions that arise as a result, and the bombing of the Northern Territory by the Japanese in World War II.

In addition to Kidman and Jackman the film features pretty much every major Australian character actor working today – notably David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown and David Gulipilil – and boasts impressive production values that garnered the film an Academy Award nomination for costume design. The score for Australia is by David Hirschfelder, who after receiving a pair of Oscar nominations in the early 2000s for his work on Shine and Elizabeth, has slipped beneath the Hollywood radar.

His music is an unashamedly old-fashioned affair, fully orchestral, lively and energetic, with an appropriately epic sweep to capture the expansive nature of the film. The opening cue, “The Bombing of Darwin”, begins darkly and moodily, before exploding into a memorable dramatic cue tinged a great deal of graceful tragedy from the string section, and an equally great amount of choral power. The action stylings from the opening cue return later in the breathlessly exciting “Stampede”, in which Hirschfelder really goes for broke with his orchestra slashing and flailing with relentless forward motion; every now and again, to capture the flavor of the region, Hirschfelder works traditional Aboriginal instruments such as didgeridoos and wobble-boards and even vocal effects into the cue, which gives it a unique, appealing flavor.

Hirschfelder shows off his romantic side in the magically appealing “Nullah Enchants Sarah”, and concludes his score with the lovely, sweeping “Nullah is Safe”, which contains one of his most attractive themes. The one curio is “England to Oz”, a travelogue/montage cue which begins in a straightforward enough fashion, and with plenty of English pomp and pageantry, but ends up as a pastiche of 1920s swing music, which is authentic, but seems at odds with the rest of the album. There are also several quite nice songs, notably the diaphanous “By the Boab Tree”, written by Angela Little and performed by her group Ophelia of the Spirits, and a pleasant new song called “The Drover’s Ballad” by Elton John.

Of course, no soundtrack about Australia would be complete without an appearance from the ubiquitous, near-legendary Rolf Harris, this time singing “You Ride Your Way and I’ll Ride Mine” in his inimitable style, “eeffing and eiffing” all the way. The score for Australia has not been released commercially at the time of writing, and can currently only be found on this promotional album, released for Academy Awards consideration by 20th Century Fox.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • The Bombing of Darwin (6:15)
  • Nullah Enchants Sarah (3:21)
  • England to Oz (7:48)
  • Stampede (4:40)
  • Nullah is Safe (6:13)
  • By the Boab Tree (performed by Ophelia of the Spirits) (3:42)
  • The Drover’s Ballad (performed by Elton John) (4:24)
  • You Ride Your Way and I’ll Ride Mine (performed by Rolf Harris) (2:04)
  • All Night Long (performed by The John Butler Trio) (2:05)
  • Waltzing Matilda (performed by Ophelia of the Spirits) (2:38)

Running Time: 43 minutes 14 seconds

Promo (2008)

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