Welcome to He Shoots, He Scores, a weekly series where I examine a great score/soundtrack to a film. Last week I looked at the Reznor/Ross score for The Social Network. This week, I’m examining one of the greatest film scores of all time – certainly my all-time favourite. I am talking, of course, about Zbigniew Preisner’s score for the three films in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy.
Blue, the first of the three films, has my favourite film score ever. I am listening to it now as I write. It is haunting, it is beautiful, it is absolutely staggering. It is infused with an epic energy that is impossible to put into words, and immeasurably marvellous. The film itself centres around Julie (Juliette Binoche), an introverted woman reeling from the death of her husband, Patrice, a famous composer. In order to get over his death and move on, she burns all his music and moves to a new apartment in the city. But Patrice’s secrets still haunt her, as his Unfinished Symphony beckons, and she is forced to write an ending to it. Song for the Unification of Europe is presented in two versions on the film score album. The first is Patrice’s unfinished version, and the second is Julie’s final cut. The latter of these is one of my favourite – if not my absolute favourite – pieces of music ever recorded.
Other album highlights include the pieces which Priesner composed under the pseudonym “Van Den Budenmayer”, the three versions of Funeral March, the first played with wind instruments, the second with an organ and the third with a full orchestra. The three (actually four, though only three have the same name) Ellipsis tracks, which are brief bursts of loud strings which occur at various points throughout the film are blinding interruptions of pure sound, jolting us back into life. But none compare to the fantastic Song for the Unification of Europe (Julie’s Version), which at six minutes and fifty seconds, is the longest track on the album, but my absolute favourite.
White is an interesting album. The film itself focuses on a Polish man living in Paris, who yearns to return home to Warsaw. The first pieces of music, played during the opening scenes where the hero is stuck in Paris, are grim, moody and slow. My favourite of these slow pieces is Return to Poland, which carries in its notes an inexplicable beauty, reminiscent of the feeling of waking up in the morning and laying in bed, silently. Then, the audience are given the first big jaunt of the album, with the track Home at Last, a small but powerful piece which starts of as piano, but then the strings kick in and the film’s most famous theme begins.
The theme to White is iconic, and recurs through six different tracks in the album (namely On the Wisla, First Job, The Party on the Wisla, Don Karol Part One, Morning at the Hotel and The End). The theme is infectiously fun to listen to, and is a startling jump back into the light comedy of the film, beautiful, complex and sharp.
Red is a great album, which like the two before it, is memorable chiefly because of an instantly recognizable theme to anyone who has seen the film. The sharp and quick violins of the film’s theme are insatiably fun to listen to, and reflect a variety of moods throughout the film, from excitement and wildness to slow, contemplative beauty. My favourite is the opening track, Fashion Show Part One, which is really a five minute sample of most of the music you’ll hear in the film. There is an unforgettable moment in this track, about two minutes in, where loud, piercing violins appear out of nowhere and force us back into reality. This also occurs in the final seconds of the track Treason.
It is also the slow and contemplative beauty of tracks like Do Not Take Another Man’s Wife that I love. It echoes the Van Den Budenmayer feel and theme that occurred in Three Colours: Blue and more famously, The Double Life of Veronique. The aching operatic vocals of this track are haunting, and almost tearjerking. It is the most beautiful track on the album.
Below I’ve embedded quite a few tracks from all three albums, starting with my personal favourite, the Song for the Unification of Europe, and if you think the first few minutes are slow, wait until the final fantastic ninety seconds. The other tracks are all equally stunning and worth listening to, so I do hope you’ll give them a go. Thanks. Also, be sure to leave a comment with what you think of the tracks, the albums, and/or the films.