Instrumental motion picture scores are a guilty pleasure of mine. Since picking up Danny Elfman's Men In Black score some seven years ago, I'd become hooked on instrumental soundtracks to my favorite films. I went on to pick up David Arnold's Tomorrow Never Dies, James Horner's Titanic, and Jerry Goldsmith's The Mummy to name a few. In the mix, I grabbed one by a composer I'd never heard of named John Debney who had scored Jim Carrey's Liar Liar. The sound was light-hearted, upbeat and certainly theatrical. He'd created a wonderful feeling of innocence surrounding Carrey's character's little son as well as a bouncing and thrilling comedic backdrop for the more off-the-wall sequences. Since Liar Liar, Debney brilliantly scored last year's Elf, and ironically Bruce Almighty, as well as offering comedic subtlety to last month's Welcome To Mooseport. But on February 24th of this year, Debney's most crucial piece hit streets on the eve of the release of one of the most impacting films to ever grace the silver screen.
The Passion Of The Christ: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a collection of 15 instrumental pieces composed almost entirely by Debney for this film. I'm sure when Debney took on this project, he never imagined he'd be in for the spiritual battle of his life, working on his toughest film yet. Debney uses a wide range of tones musically throughout the soundtrack from somber and sorrowful to emotionally-fueled bursts from the orchestra. The majority of the music is subtle and only raises in volume and intensity at key moments in the film. This is utilized especially effectively in one of the film's most heart-wrenching scenes in "Mary Goes To Jesus." Songs like "Bearing The Cross" mix a Middle Eastern influence with an almost congregational chant melody. It's amazing to hear how versatile Debney really is. I'd never guess in a millenium that the same man who composed the goofy light-hearted Liar Liar had so successfully pulled off the serious and dramatic and emotionally-saturated Passion.
A touching melody opens "Flagellation" before it slows until the music can barely be heard with haunting vocals and percussion fading in and out of the background. A lot of the music in the film is used sparingly. It oftentimes creeps in without you realizing it, with the soundtrack separated being the only way you really noticing it. The emotionally exhausting crucifixion in the film is accented by Debney's haunting drums followed by beautiful string melodies and resounding vocal ensembles. Alone, the music may sound overly dramatic, but it fits the mood of the film when mixed in. The score appropriately finishes with the glorious "Resurrection" that wonderfully represents this most triumphant event.
Much like how the movie itself is a haunting experience for the viewer, so is the musical score. As the music brings scenes back to your memory, you can't help but feel the need to worship Jesus for His immeasurable sacrifice. It's clear a lot was poured into this scoring, as it should be. Thanks Debney.- Review date: 3/2/04, written by John DiBiase
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