The haunting music of the soundtrack greatly contributed to my enjoyment of the film. Tom Tykwer is clearly a very talented man to have not only directed the movie but to have written its soundtrack in collaboration with Australian Johnny Klimek and fellow German Reinhold Heil. And then to have grabbed the chance to get Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic to play it, well who can be so surprised at the soundtrack's success?
The music provided on this CD lasts seventy minutes, and these are not just snippets of music: six of the tracks are over five minutes long. Throughout the disc the singing of the Latvian State Choir adds a spiritual dimension, reminiscent of Gregorian chant and late-medieval church music. It is most effective in the climax that is `The Crowd Embrace'.
But from the get-go of the CD's opening `Prologue', a haunting four-note theme - the fourth note seemingly modulated on its third repeat - is present in the choir, a theme that will re-appear to spectacular effect. Then, the second track erupts into a gloriously upward-yearning string theme accompanied by harp glissandos over low brass sustained chords. My description may sound dry and technical, but the effect on the ear and mind is the exact opposite.
In the third track, we first hear that ostinato that will also re-appear to remarkable effect later. Indeed, in the very next track, that ostinato pulse provides the foundation of the music, cleverly combined with the beating of a heart as the classical orchestra becomes mixed with superb electronic effects.
Some tracks are laced with an exoticism as strong as the perfume of the title, for example `Moorish Scents' with its opening bassoon weaving a magical spell. And the magic and innocence of a music box is depicted in `Distilling Roses'. There is an innocence too in the waltz of `The Thirteenth Essence' but here there is also an undercurrent of menace, as if we are not being told the whole story.
The composers' skill in evoking mood is present, for example, in the descending low strings tremolos, like the opening to a Bruckner symphony, that dominate `Meeting Laura', thus raising the viewers' and listeners' expectations of what is to come. Meanwhile, in `The Method Works!', the three-note ostinato is invigorated with a very low bassoon and bass strings, evoking the devilish nature of the perfumer's skill. And the mounting hysteria depicted in `Grasse in Panic' is made more effective by anchoring it in a slow repeated scale.
One of my favourite tracks is `The Perfume' itself. Sustained string chords, in places vaguely straying into a Sibelian dissonance, gather strength, supported by brass, continuous harp glissandos, timpani and tam-tam. It is the music of the sun.
This is a five-star soundtrack to a five-star film.
on 12 September 2013
I genuinely think this is one of the greatest film soundtracks ever written, both in terms of its integral contribution to a superb film, and in its value as a stand-alone work. It is one of the most listened-to CDs in my bloated collection. A point that other reviewers fail to mention, that only makes this more impressive, is that the score was written by Tom Twyker, the film's director. It absolutely staggers me that such a feat can be accomplished by someone 'moonlighting' from their day job as a film director. A 'total' artist. If there have ever been more stunningly evocative musical moments written than the climaxes to 'The Perfume' and 'The Crowd Embrace', I've yet to hear them.