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Snowpiercer by Marco Beltrami


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Snowpiercer (Soundtrack) by Marco Beltrami
Snowpiercer (Soundtrack) by Marco Beltrami











Snowpiercer (Soundtrack) by Marco Beltrami

Composed by Marco Beltrami
Varese Sarabande (2014)

Rating: 6/10

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“BELTRAMI’S score yields more success when it takes on the threads and ideas within the film that are of greater meaning, rather than remaining simply reactive to visual moments onscreen.”

Frozen Motion
Review by Richard Buxton


Based on the French graphic novel LE TRANSPERCENEIGE, SNOWPIERCER marks BONG JOON-HO’S English-language debut, and the last of the South Korean film industry’s big three directors (Bong Joon-ho, Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-wook) to venture west in recent years. Though its release was subject to substantial delays outside Asia, Snowpiercer is nothing less than a riveting, refreshing, and downright entertaining science-fiction action film from an immensely talented director.

SNOWPIERCER, set in a grim dystopian future aboard a self-sustaining train without a terminus, charters the uprising of the oppressed within the remnants of humanity’s fragile existence. This ambitious, claustrophobic sci-fi is director Bong’s first foray into action, and has been met with almost universal praise. While his equally talented South Korean colleages Kim Jee-woon, and Park Chan-wook stumbled somewhat with their English-language debuts, SNOWPIERCER’S critical success has made great waves for the South Korean film industry on an international scale.

Aside from Japanese composer TARO IWASHIRO’S score for MEMORIES OF MURDER, music in Bong’s films hasn’t particularly stood out, either in-context or standing alone, nor has the director formed any sort of long-lasting relationship with a composer. As a result, MARCO BELTRAMI boarded the project. Had BELTRAMI produced a by-the-numbers action score, it would have been a missed opportunity to provide something unique for a truly unique film. However, Beltrami has most definitely succeeded in his work for SNOWPIERCER, though in a way that is not entirely satisfying.

The dark reality of SNOWPIERCER’S world is immediately evident in the score’s bleak opening - a fog of desolation that never clears and ultimately represents the divide between the score’s success and failure. As a supporting character in the film, BELTRAMI’S score blends in perfectly, but as a solo act it doesn’t quite have the muscle to boast consistent thrills. Subsequently, those who have not seen the film will have greater difficulty in finding moments worth revisiting.

“This is the End” (1) is as dispirited and despondent as its title suggests, with hopeless trudges of piano and wearisome strings, and reflects large portions of this score in its quieter, more foreboding moments. Cues such as “Stomp” (2), “The Seven” (12), and “Snow Melt” (16) all continue on this dismal path, and are mostly devoid of anything noteworthy.

BELTRAMI’S score yields more success when it takes on the threads and ideas within the film that are of greater meaning, rather than remaining simply reactive to visual moments onscreen. The deified perpetual motion engine lies at the heart of SNOWPIERCER’S conflict, not only for its presence being the reason humanity remains relevant, but also for its representation as humanity’s downfall and regression when faced by its own mortality. Beltrami gives life to the engine in his score beginning with the combination of the tracks “Preparation” (3) and “Requesting an Upgrade” (4). The jittering strings of “Preparation” and the locomotive percussion of “Requesting an Upgrade” not only represent the forward motion of the Snowpiercer itself but also the seemingly unstoppable forward march of the train’s rebellious passengers. These two elements resurface again in “We Go Forward” (13), before “Steam Car” (14) takes things one step further with the sounds of an actual train coming to a piercing stop, before the chilling groans of an empty world outside take over.

SNOWPIERCER’S action set-pieces and character-driven cues are what ultimately provide the score’s strongest moments. The theme for the character Yona has small beginnings in the opening track, but develops into a haunting portrait of what little humanity has left in “Yona’s Theme” (20). “Take My Place” (17), and “Yona Lights” (18) both use sustained string and brass statements to create sequences of conflicting hope and despair, with the unrelenting engine taking the form of churning string ostinatos. The 7/8 rhythm of “Blackout Fight” (8) is the fuel of one of SNOWPIERCER’S most memorable sequences, and is preceded by the suitably outlandish “Axe Schlomo” (7) and “Axe Gang” (6). “This is the Beginning” (19) however, is quite easily the score’s highlight. Once again, the use of a 7/8 rhythm provides the foundation for an invigorating cue which boasts what is possibly the score’s sole moment of genuine optimism. These more robust cues ultimately save SNOWPIERCER as a listening experience, and allow the film’s many eccentricities to shine through.

Once SNOWPIERCER finally comes to a halt it unfortunately fails to really leave any sort of impression as a purely musical entity. As a film SNOWPIERCER is essential viewing, but BELTRAMI’S score is undoubtedly more suited to an in-context experience.

Rating: 6/10


1. Marco Beltrami - This Is The End (3:41) ***
2. Marco Beltrami - Stomp (1:00) **
3. Marco Beltrami - Preparation (3:10) ***
4. Marco Beltrami - Requesting An Upgrade (3:40) ****
5. Marco Beltrami - Take The Engine (2:04) **
6. Marco Beltrami - Axe Gang (2:22) ***
7. Marco Beltrami - Axe Schlomo (1:47) **
8. Marco Beltrami - Blackout Fight (4:24) ****
9. Marco Beltrami - Water Supply (2:32) ***
10. Marco Beltrami - Go Ahead (2:45) ***
11. Marco Beltrami - Sushi (1:14) ***
12. Marco Beltrami - The Seven (1:00) **
13. Marco Beltrami - We Go Forward (2:05) ****
14. Marco Beltrami - Steam Car (2:38) **
15. Marco Beltrami - Seoul Train (2:26) ***
16. Marco Beltrami - Snow Melt (2:02) **
17. Marco Beltrami - Take My Place (5:56) ****
18. Marco Beltrami - Yona Lights (3:33) ****
19. Marco Beltrami - This Is The Beginning (4:00) *****
20. Marco Beltrami - Yona`s Theme (3:38) ****


Total Running Time: 56 minutes (Approximate)


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