Home > Reviews > WALTZ WITH BASHIR – Max Richter


December 26, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Waltz With Bashir is a very unusual animated documentary, directed by Ari Folman, which examines the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war from the point of view of the director himself, when he was a 19-year old soldier in the Israeli Defence Force. The film has been the recipient of much praise on the independent film and festival circuit, receiving award nominations from the Cannes Film Festival, the European Film Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The score for Waltz With Bashir is by Scots-German composer Max Richter, a former student of Luciano Berio, and whose first major film score this is.

The word ‘eclectic’ doesn’t even come close to describing this score; it runs the gamut from modern dance music and percussive electronica to full-on orchestral beauty and everything in between, and while the music is certainly impressive in purely technical terms, as a listening experience, it suffers from its own schizophrenia. Cues such as “Boaz and the Dogs” sound like they would be more at home in a nightclub than in a film score; again, their construction and authenticity is impressive, but will likely leave anyone who dislikes dance music completely cold. Similarly, “Taxi and APC” and “Any Minute Now/Thinking Back” are in-your-face action-style pieces which throb to electronic pulses and aggressive rhythms.

On the other hand, the various “Haunted Ocean” cues have a more traditional orchestral element, at times sounding like Michael Nyman, at others like Philip Glass, and often incorporate a haunting solo violin into the fabric of the piece, while “I Swam Out to Sea/Return” features some bold, dramatic brass writing and undulating string lines which are very effective. Elsewhere, “Iconography” and “What Have They Done?” are a solemn pieces featuring a synthesized church organ and an ecclesiastical tone; “JSB/RPG” emulates Bach through its twinkling virtuoso piano performance; and “Shadow Journal” is a dark, eerie piece which features narration by actress Tilda Swinton and a sampled typewriter, and originally appeared on Richter’s 2004 solo album The Blue Notebooks.

While I certainly acknowledge the fact that Richter has gone down the road less travelled, and that his music is unique and very effective in eliciting certain moods, I can’t say I ever really enjoyed listening to Waltz With Bashir at all, which leaves me somewhat torn as to whether it is worth recommending. Anyone whose tastes extend beyond the mainstream will certainly find things worth listening to; I’m certainly looking forward to what he does next.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Boaz and the Dogs (3:11)
  • Iconography (3:17)
  • The Haunted Ocean, Part 1 (2:07)
  • JSB/RPG (1:31)
  • Shadow Journal (8:27)
  • Enola Gay (performed by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark)
  • The Haunted Ocean, Part 2 (0:54)
  • Taxi and APC (2:12)
  • Any Minute Now/Thinking Back (4:16)
  • I Swam Out to Sea/Return (3:52)
  • Patchouli Oil and Karate (0:36)
  • This Is Not a Love Song (performed by Public Image Ltd.)
  • What Had They Done? (1:52)
  • Into the Airport/Hallucination (3:27)
  • The Slaughterhouse (1:35)
  • The Haunted Ocean, Part 3 (2:21)
  • Into the Camps (3:18)
  • The Haunted Ocean, Part 4 (3:44)
  • Andante/Reflection (End Title) (3:29)
  • The Haunted Ocean, Part 5 [Solo Version] (1:37)

Running Time: 51 minutes 56 seconds

EMI International 265570, 51:56 (2008)

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