Score: A Film Music Documentary

500 Days Of Film Reviews Score: A Film Music Documentary

Hollywood's composers - including Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Brian Tyler, Moby and Bear McCreary - give us a privileged look inside the musical challenges of the world's most widely known music genre: the film score.

Is It Any Good?

Score was released in the US late in 2017. As a lover of film music, I couldn’t wait to watch Matt Schrader’s documentary. However, weeks and weeks passed without news of a UK release. I was so excited, therefore, when the movie became available to watch via VOD and on DVD.


So, was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Score is a joy to watch. 


The documentary starts by looking at the birth of cinema and how the “pictures” developed hand in hand with music. Silent cinema was, of course, never silent. As film scores progressed, so orchestras were introduced to enhance key moments.  


Directors soon began to understand the emotional power of the film score and the role of music composer as storyteller. It is fascinating to watch as Score reveals the history of movie music (with a particularly interesting focus on Bernard Herrmann). 


Indeed, there is enough material here for several movies. However, Schrader is not just interested in the past. As well as exploring the future of film scores, he also looks at the science behind our reactions to music. Why does a collection of notes evoke such an emotional response? 



The documentary's to camera interviews are equally fascinating - featuring directors such as James Cameron and observations from many notable film composers. Schrader take us behind the scenes of score development. He looks at what inspires composers. What instruments do they use? How do they work?


I loved how much respect each composer had for his or her colleagues. Meanwhile, for me, the most interesting interview is with Hans Zimmer. The legendary composer talks (remarkably frankly) about his process - his fears and insecurities. How every time he gets another “job” he worries that musical inspiration will evade him. 


Score makes us wait for John Williams. The composer looms large over the documentary and when his contribution to film music is assessed - complete with analysis of his superb recurring motifs and fascinating archive footage of him and Steven Spielberg - it is all pretty wonderful. 


Of course, you only have to watch the ending of E.T The Extraterrestrial, or the beginning of Jaws to understand the power of film music. It is satisfying, therefore, to hear that, yes, John Williams is as brilliant, well regarded and influential as we all suspected.


With the likes of Williams and Zimmer, Danny Elfman and Thomas Newman dominating the film music industry, how can new composers make their mark? Score looks at how movie music has changed as technology has developed - focusing on compositions for films such as The Social Network (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).  


While it remains a mystery as to why music affects us in the way that it does, as this entertaining documentary comes to a close, one thing is clear. The future is tremendously exciting as film scores continue to play a crucial part in cinema’s greatest stories.


Random Observations

Score could easily have taken the form of a multi-part television series. There is just so much to explore. However, it works extremely well as a film and, for those left wanting more, there is now a Score podcast!


Have you seen Score? 


If you have, what did you think of Matt Schrader’s documentary? Let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter (you can find me @500DaysOfFilm).

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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