by Nathan Cone
Probably my favorite movie I’ve seen so far this year, “The Tree of Life” approaches for me a kind of magical or spiritual experience. It was recently released on Blu-ray/DVD, and you can read my full review online at TPR.ORG, but I wanted to devote this post to the music included in the film.
“The Tree of Life” was scored by Alexandre Desplat, the Oscar-nominated composer of “The King’s Speech” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” But while his official soundtrack contains an hour of wonderful music, very little of it made it into the finished film. Director Terrence Malick’s style led him to create a pastiche of sound from Desplat as well as other composers, classic and contemporary. Indeed, the most memorable musical moments in the film feature the work of Zbigniew Preisner, Ottorino Respighi, and François Couperin, not Desplat. Malick leans heavily on choral and vocal works, not for their librettos, but I think because the sound of these works expresses spirituality in its greatest sense.
If you were as enchanted by the music of “The Tree of Life” as I, then look below for a helpful guide to some of the best musical moments in the film, and links to iTunes and Amazon’s mp3 store -- so you can recreate the soundtrack yourself at home. Enjoy!
Ottorino Respighi’s “Siciliana” from his “Ancient Airs and Dances” beautifully accompanies scenes of newly-married life in the film. Shortly after Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s first child is born, Gustav Holst’s “Hymn to Dionysus” is heard as Chastain introduces her young boy, Jack, to picture books and wooden toys on the lawn.
Zbigniew Preisner’s “Lacrimosa: Day of Tears” brings the otherworldly images of the film’s cosmic sequence to life.
The accidental drowning death of a young boy is hauntingly underscored by an excerpt from Gustav Mahler’s “Titan” Symphony.
Images of the early days on earth, as well as the heavenly finale, are scored with Berlioz’s “Requiem,” both the “Agnus Dei,” and the “Domine Jesu Christie.”
Both the film’s trailer and the movie itself make wonderful use of Bederich Smetena’s “The Moldau.” The music accompanies scenes of joyous family life.
Angela Hewitt’s rolling piano arrangement of François Couperin’s “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” is heard as Jessica Chastain’s narration implores audiences to help, love, and forgive one another.
The stern father (Brad Pitt) regrets getting sidetracked by life, unable to fulfill his dream of being a great classical musician. In one scene, he plays Brahms on the record player, praising Arturo Toscanini’s conducting.
The closing credits of the film roll as “Welcome Happy Morning” is heard. The gentle piano music is by composer Hanan Townshend, who was studying at UT-Austin during the production of “The Tree of Life.”