Home > Reviews > THE STONING OF SORAYA M. – John Debney

THE STONING OF SORAYA M. – John Debney

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A devastating drama exploring the subjugation of women in modern day Iran, The Stoning of Soraya M. is a tragic look at how women are mistreated under the stifling confines of Islamic Sharia law. Jim Caviezel stars as Freidoune Sahebjam, a journalist travelling through a remote part of Iran, when his car breaks down near a small village. While looking for help, Sahebjam is approached by a local woman named Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who tells him the story of her niece, Soraya (Mozhan Marnò), who was stoned to death by her husband, who wanted nothing more than an easy way out of his marriage.

While not based specifically on any one story, it’s easy to see parallels between Cyrus Nowrasteh’s film and real-life cases such as that of Du’a Khalil Aswad, who was stoned to death in Iraq for supposed adultery in 2007. The music for this important film is by John Debney, tackling one of the few ‘serious’ films since his Oscar nomination for The Passion of the Christ in 2004. In many ways, The Stoning of Soraya M. is a close cousin to the music of The Passion of the Christ, as it uses a similar orchestral palette, similar ethnic instruments, similar vocal stylistics, and is similar in tone throughout.

As one might expect, Debney’s music is highly emotional, reveling in the terrible tragedy of the central story, but whereas Passion of the Christ ultimately told a tale of hope, and has some truly beautiful moments, The Story of Soraya M. is beautiful in a bleak, poignant way. The centerpiece of the score is the 13-minute “The Stoning of Soraya M.”, which acts almost as a lament for the dying, never reveling in the horror of the scene, but instead treating Soraya’s fate as a quiet, defiant tragedy; there is a sequence for solo cello half way through the cue which is simply heartbreaking. There is a haunting quality to much of the rest of the music, often achieved through a pairing or combination of somber cellos, wailing ethnic voices, lutes, duduks and various middle-eastern percussion.

Cues such as the “Main Title”, the desolate “They Looked Away As I Died”, the tragedy-laden “Death of Hashem’s Wife”, the disquieting, synth-enhanced “The Beating” have a great deal of power and weight, but are far from easy listening, although later cues such as “The Meadow” have a more conventional beauty, and highlight Debney’s lush woodwind writing. This is an important score for an important film, but may be heavy-going for some listeners, as the overwhelming sense of despair doesn’t let up for the entire running time.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (3:12)
  • She Lies by the River (2:54)
  • Soraya’s Theme (0:46)
  • The Meadow (1:41)
  • They Looked Away As I Died (2:06)
  • Death of Hashem’s Wife (3:43)
  • Digging Graves (1:49)
  • Concubine (1:03)
  • Your Mother’s Ring (1:19)
  • Waiting (1:41)
  • The Beating (2:36)
  • The Verdict (2:03)
  • I’ll Tell the World (1:47)
  • Saying Goodbye (2:46)
  • Dead Woman Walking (1:13)
  • The Stoning of Soraya M. (12:50)
  • The Gentleness of Passing (1:59)
  • The Escape (2:35)

Running Time: 48 minutes 03 seconds

Colosseum MO-4201-2 (2009)

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