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Efforts to feign an unbiased attitude towards the topic of Score: A Film Music Documentary come off as obvious lies…because they are. I’m deeply invested in the musical scores constructed for and within movies, how they’re created, and who the masterminds are behind them. Fortunately, Dallas International Film Festival screened a documentary appealing directly to these near-obsessions this year – one that dazzled the audience of the screening I attended.
For the average or even slightly-above-average moviegoer, attention isn’t paid as much to the music or ambient sounds placed in a scene. We may have become accustomed to it being a natural presence in cinema, but as Score observes, a film can fall apart without the right musical tones to emphasize the depth and happenings of a given situation. Score is a love letter to the most important film music and its creators, but includes via interviews as many contributors to the field as possible.
Think of the film Jaws, helmed by Steven Spielberg. Reading that title alone should replay the iconic theme in your head – the theme that revolves around two notes merely a half-step interval away from each other. Highlighted in Score is the relationship Spielberg established with arguably the most influential composer in Hollywood, John Williams, and his impact in the film music industry. Other recognizable, impactful artists like Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, and Thomas Newman among others are spoken of fondly by current film musicians throughout this picture.
To the non-cinephile/music geek, Score could come off as a documentary landing similar punches as any other. The plot beats and formula are certainly familiar, but a movie that’s studying such a broad history in a department of cinema that’s existed for the last 100 years (at least). Between the traditional interview, we’re shown a composer either creating his/her work or conducting their own music with an orchestra. Then we see those specific tunes in the context of the film itself. Needless to say, there is plenty to feel excited over as you’re watching Score.
A phrase often touched on in Score is “The Goosebumps.” A couple composers in the movie state they use the “goosebumps” feeling as a measuring stick for whether or not a piece of music they wrote is worth pursuing further. In relation to the documentary itself, I received those goosebumps myself on plenty of occasions after hearing such revolutionary themes over and over and seeing their respective history. I can’t guarantee you’ll get the same exact high, but you’ll gain an education on a tragically-underappreciated aspect of filmmaking and see some of your favorite movie scenes in the process.