Review Summary: Grim and gloom above, vast as a canyon within…
A bleak walk through a cemetery, the motivation to accomplish a daunting task to honor someone’s life; picturesque mental snapshots and emotions come to mind when listening to this fantastic composition by Clint Mansell. Every pluck of a string and every well placed arrangement perfectly encapsulate what feelings were present in the scene. Whether these moods were of melancholy origin or raging actuation, they were well represented by the tune that accompanied them.
The majority of The Fountain
, is rather mellow and dark and rarely does the tempo climb to fast rates. This is not a problem however, as this was not the overall purpose of this soundtrack. The intention was to craft audible emotion, and it does just that. Littered throughout this movie score are grandiose amounts of violins, cellos and other strings. They provide the framework for most of the songs, such as “The Last Man”, “First Snow”, and “Xibalba”. In almost no situation do they mar the overall feel of the song. In the rare case where the strings would be played slightly too high compared to the rest of the song, it is only brief and is never distracting enough to break continuity. They deftly leap from soft and relaxing lows into eerie build ups that are more often felt than just heard alone.
Accompanying the strings are the occasional choir vocals, melodic piano segments, sparse drums and fleeting atmospherics that more or less support the rest of the composition rather than make a stand on their own. Slow paced guitar strumming is present as well, frequenting tracks such as “Stay With Me” and “Tree of Life”, and mostly are there as background filling to compliment the strings. The piano is secondary in importance to the score, and while its presence is fleeting and not too prominent, it lays a backdrop to multiple songs and is responsible most of the time for any creeping feelings that can be heard throughout the album. The only real track in which the piano is the main focus would be the final ballad “Together We Will Live Forever”, which is arguably one of the best tracks on the album.
As for the structural aspect of the album, it is insanely well composed and ties in incredibly well to the material it was composed for. Every instrument blends well and showcases the atmosphere that it was meant to convey. While all of the pacing is rather slow, it is still varied in its appearance and its depth, with some sections purposely haunting and deep, while others are laced with extra input to draw the attention elsewhere. Build ups are present here and there throughout the album, but they are mostly there to lean help to a familiar hand called suspense. They however do a fantastic job of fooling the listener and thus succeed in that regard.
This is a fantastic and underrated score for a great and underrated film. While the film and the soundtrack never graced the limelight of popularity, it is a grand album with an almost deathly atmosphere that can leave one lingering in their thoughts about the purpose of life and whether certain lives should have or should not have ended at the time they did.