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DOUBT – Howard Shore

December 12, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A challenging religious drama, Doubt is the latest film from writer/director John Patrick Shanley, and is based on his own acclaimed stage play. The film stars Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a nun who runs a Catholic school in New York in 1964, whose old fashioned traditional beliefs are challenged and is forced to make a difficult decision when she receives word from a fellow sister (Amy Adams) that one of the school’s teachers – the convention-challenging, progressive young priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – may be abusing a young black student.

An actor’s dream – all four leads (Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Viola Davis have received multiple Award nominations) – Doubt is not a film which required a flashy, showy music to hammer home its challenging, weighty subject matter; as such, Shanley turned to Howard Shore to provide the music, who prior to becoming a superstar with his work on Lord of the Rings often tackled gloomy, grave dramas such as these. Written for a medium-sized orchestra with emphasis on strings, woodwinds and piano, Shore’s score is a small, intimate work which never draws undue attention to itself; the mood is generally morose and introspective, the themes somber and serious, albeit occasionally rising to downbeat crescendos and moments of dark power.

Unexpectedly, the score Doubt reminds me of the most is The Silence of the Lambs, especially in the way Shore uses strings and flutes at the lower ends of their registers to create a mood which is simultaneously attractive and uneasy, albeit without the more horrific overtones the earlier score had. Once or twice Shore alludes to the setting of the film, using tinkling guitars in the “Main Title” and an ecclesiastical-sounding boy’s choir in “Sacristy”, while elsewhere he really ratchets up the tension, with cues such as “The Shed, Part II” the nervous “The Storm”, “The Gossip Service”, and the increasingly bold ”Rage” having a sense of foreboding that is palpable, especially when Shore incorporates a subtle synth pulse or trembling strings into his writing.

One curio is “Donald”, into which Shore works the sound of children singing mocking playground songs under his score, to quite unsettling effect. Admirers of Shore’s work from his Lord of the Rings scores are likely to wonder what Doubt is all about, as it contains none of the thematic strength or choral glory that dominated those works, but Doubt is actually a closer representation of the kind of music that has characterized most of his career to date, and it’s pleasing to see that he has not abandoned that early sound altogether.

The score album for Doubt was not available commercially, and was only found on a short 16-minute promo album which was made available ‘for your consideration’ purposes by Miramax films. The full score was later released on Shore’s own label, Howe Records, in February 2009.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:53)
  • Sacristy (1:49)
  • Daybreak (1:51)
  • Be Alert (1:31)
  • I Am Concerned (1:22)
  • The Locker (1:33)
  • The Rose Garden (1:39)
  • Porch (1:38)
  • The Storm (1:43)
  • Sister James (1:26)
  • Accused (2:04)
  • Feathers (1:50)
  • The Crow (1:59)
  • Donald (1:42)
  • Range (2:00)
  • Mrs. Miller (1:34)
  • Confrontation (1:36)
  • Goodbye Sermon (2:37)
  • Doubts (1:42)

Running Time: 33 minutes 29 seconds

Howe Records HWR-1001 (2008)

  1. May 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    wow great review, such a suprinsingly immersive soundtrack, thanks….

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