Shame was one of those films I was hesitant to watch in theaters after seeing the trailer. Instead, I thought A Dangerous Method was a better alternative. I wasn't ready to see a movie like Shame. But of course, I fell into the trap of judging a book by its cover so to speak. I forgot about this film until recently, where I have been developing an interest for Michael Fassbender's acting. I looked back on his other works and remembered this film and not wanting to see it. So I decided to give it a chance...and I was not disappointed at all. This film was very intense. Everything about this film drew me in; the shots, the acting, the psychological dwellings of Brandon, and of course the music. For me, soundtracks are very very important in films. With the movies that I enjoy, having an excellent soundtrack makes me enjoy it even more so. This film has many memorable qualities that most films today don't possess.
Of course, this is not a film review, so here are my comments on the soundtrack itself. I do agree with one of the reviewers that the soundtrack really works well in the context of the film, especially when you hear Harry Escott's three pieces. He was selected by Steve McQueen to write the score for the film. All three compositions have a common theme, which is a dark, orchestral and climactic one. Escott's pieces are well crafted as it is very akin to the story. The orchestral pieces rise and fall, they begin quietly and gradually develop a climactic melody. The amazing thing about the melody of Escott's works is that you can't predict an ending to it. They leave you anxious to hear what happens next and have you keep holding on for a resolution. So this works wonderfully, especially with the film, since just like the compositions, the audience can never know when Brandon's addiction and life will take a turn or change. The fact that there are only three of Escott's pieces here makes them that much more charming and introspective.
Now for the rest of the soundtrack. We have a mixture of classical music, jazz, dance and blues. How many soundtracks have this eclectic variation? It's rare. This is one of the aspects of the soundtrack I appreciate. What's great is that all the music here really share an affinity with the city life in New York. I haven't lived there in my adult life, but having been able to visit often, I can see how this music works. The music selection also blends in well with Brandon's physical and mental life. The dance and blues tunes are fun. But the selling point of this soundtrack for me were Glenn Gould's "Goldberg Variations" by Bach and the jazz songs. Gould's pieces here are famous because he hums the melodies and harmonies as he plays the piano. No other pianist has done this on a recording! What's really interesting is that I can see Brandon humming to these pieces as they accompany his private life. So excellent job with that. Maybe that wasn't the McQueen's intention. But for whatever reason, the selections are great. Then of course we have Chet Baker and John Coltrane...the two who were among the greatest jazz performers. But also, they were two of the most troubled souls. I could say this more for Chet himself. Chet's tragic life and melancholy performance resonates with Brandon's demeanor and lifestyle. Chet's drug addiction is akin to that of Brandon's sexual addiction. "Let's Get Lost" is one of, if not the best Chet tune. Then we have Ms. Mulligan giving an excellent rendition of Sinatra's famous film theme hit "New York, New York". But this performance is darker, slower in tempo and much more introspective and reflective. Where Sinatra's classic version really glorifies the city and all of its many wonders, Mulligan's rendition gives the audience a different take on maybe some of the darker aspects of the city. The arrangement itself conveys a darker side of New York, regardless of the lyrics. This is an important moment in the film and should be kept in mind when hearing this song. Brandon is seen emotionally breaking down when he hears his sister(Mulligan) singing at a club. New York, the place of so much mystery and magic! But what else does the city hold for someone like Brandon? Has it given him a happy life, or a desolate one?
Anyways, I really recommend this cd to people who have watched the film or for people who just want a great cd with a mix of different genres. But for those who haven't seen the film, please try to get a chance to watch it. It's definitely worth your time! The music is great for reflecting on the film, playing it at a dinner or party, or just reflecting on yourself if your feeling contemplative. Happy listening!