Music by Alexandre Desplat
Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning epic The Tree Of Life is designed to unfold like a symphony. So you’d hope that Alexandre Desplat’s accompanying soundscape would go some way towards scaling the intimate and epic heights that the film achieves. On its own, however, without the dense, visceral texture of Malick’s visuals to buoy it – floaty butterflies, primordial ooze, asteroids, dinosaurs and Brad Pitt – it feels a trifle exposed.
The French scorer (a four-time Oscar nominee, most recently for The King’s Speech) keeps it all earthy and organic, favouring simple piano chords, delicate woodwind and sensual strings. In ‘Circles’, he alternates drifting violin, staccato bass and chirruping flutes to create an edgy piece pulsating with primeval wonder; ‘Clouds’ brings in harps and strings to inviting effect; ‘Light & Darkness’ delivers hypnotic mood swings; and ‘Motherhood’ adds a short splash of upbeat elegance. In between, alas, there’s too much dull repetition.
Desplat’s trance-like score is tailored to flow like a river through the film, but it lacks a compelling unique stamp. Nor can it compete with the Berlioz, Brahms, Mahler, Holst, Gorecki, Tavenor, et al, that Malick deploys throughout the movie with tact and impact. Now that’s the soundtrack we’d really love to own.