Terrence Malick’s latest creation hasn’t even been released yet (it goes into limited release this Friday the 27th of May) and it’s already one of the most talked about films of the year. After its premiere at Cannes, critics raved and panned the film (though, for the most part it has received high ratings). It remains to be seen what the film’s lasting impression will be on audiences but either way, Malick is not a director to make a film that viewers will quickly forget.

Similarly, four time Oscar nominee (The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King’s Speech) Alexandre Desplat is not a composer that makes forgettable scores. And his work here seems comparable to Malick’s film in that audiences will either love or hate it. I found myself falling in the former camp – being engulfed by the lovely simplicity of the music. Most of the tracks consist of solos (either piano or violin) with only a few other instruments chiming in to add to the tapestry of sound. The album is about an hour long, with relatively lengthy tracks (“Circles” clocks in at just over 11 minutes) that allow Desplat to fully explore the gently pulsing themes he’s created.

The pulsing in “Emergence of Life”, the flowing energy of “Motherhood”, and the repetitive but moving piano solo in “River” are all distinct parts of what make this album such an enjoyable listen.

As a side note, Desplat explains in the liner notes that he and Malick carefully chose keys for the music “which were strongly related together, giving a sense of continuity and which seemed to have the most appropriate “light” for the film.” They also chose the three most common keys in all music: C major and minor, D major and minor, and G major and minor. This clearly makes for a lovely musical palate, but it perhaps sheds some light on the grandiosity of both the film and those involved with it (and what leads to this love/hate relationship audiences have had with the film) – they chose three common keys but present them as if it was a painstaking and very particular choice. Perhaps I’m being unfair and it really was a careful choice. To me, it’s actually irrelevant. This is a moving collection of music that probably feels even more so when engulfed with Malick’s moving images.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Meditating, thinking, relaxing
Stay Away if: You want a number of ever-changing themes – this one stays pretty consistent

To purchase the score to The Tree of Life, visit Amazon

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