Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






  Special Merit 


Music composed by Dario Marianelli

15 tracks (Playing Time = 50:29)

Music orchestrated by Dario Marianelli and Benjamin Wallfisch. Music performed by The English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch. Piano soloist: Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Cello soloist: Caroline Dale. Harmonica soloist: Brendan Power. Choirs: Dunkirk Choir and Bede College Choir. Music recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage. Music Editor: James Bellamy. Music Recorded and Mixed at Air Lyndhurst Studios, London, UK.

Decca CD B0009828-02

Rating: ****


This film is directed by Joe Wright, who also directed PRIDE & PREJUDICE. That score was by Dario Marianelli and was named one of the Best of 2005. Now this same director and composer have reunited for ATONEMENT, which also features one of the stars from PRIDE & PREJUDICE, the lovely and talented Keira Knightley. The film also stars James McAvoy, a BAFTA award-winner for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. The screenplay was by Christopher Hampton (Oscar winner for DANGEROUS LIAISONS).

In addition to his television work, Marianelli has also worked on stage productions for The Royal Shakespeare Company and has scored such other films as: THE BRAVE ONE and V FOR VENDETTA. But his score for ATONEMENT is his best work to date and is a very emotional treatment of this film's highly dramatic story.

The opening track titled "Briony" (1:45) begins unconventionally with the same of a typewriter (I first thought there was a fdefect on the CD!). Then the solo piano enters as the strings accompany in rapid arpeggios. This is the main theme which will be used at other times in the score. The second track, "Robbie's Note" (3:06) has a solo clarinet (uncredited) along with the pianist (Jean-Yves Thibaudet) and cellist (Caroline Dale) along with the orchestra. This is a beautifully expansive cue.

But the most poignant cue is "Elegy for Dunkirk" (track 10, 4:15), which has a mournful cello solo mixed together with a male chorus that fades in and out of the cue. A very effective and moving piece of music.

Another highly effective cue is "The Half Killed" (track 8, 2:11) with a dark string sound accompanying the solo piano.

Even though the star soloist on this soundtrack is classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, I thought the cello solos by Caroline Dale were just as good as his playing. For example, "Denouement" (track (track 12, 2:29), with the slow and extremely moving theme heard earlier in the score, this time played by Carolin Dale's cello solo accompanied by the strings and woodwinds which builds to a somber climax.

The next to last track is titled "Atonement" (track 14, 5:18) and is the longest and most expansive one on the CD. Both the solo piano and cello are heard with darker expressions from the strings.

The final track has Claude Debussy's beautiful and justly famous "Clair de Lune" sensitively performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet (track 15, 4:52).

In a year when many soundtracks are dark and dreary, ATONEMENT is like a day filled with bright sunshine and cool fresh air.

Highest recommendation for Dario Marianelli's score.

This is easily the most beautiful soundtrack of the year.


--Roger L. Hall, 20 December 2007


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