Star Wars. Superman. Batman. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Jaws. Psycho. What would all those films have been without their iconic music? Quite possibly they wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they were. There would still be an importance and impact to those films and genres, but it’s the score to those films that makes them truly iconic. You probably can’t run up a flight of stairs without humming the theme to Rocky, and a shootout in the dusty desert just wouldn’t feel the same without the tune of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly running through your mind. Looking at the beginning of film scores and loosely working through the decades from the ’60s to the ’00s, Score: A Film Music Documentary takes viewers on a trip through the most memorable scores and looks at some of the greatest composers in history.
Score may be a rather limited look at the world of film music, as the focus is strictly on some of the biggest names in the business like John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, and Danny Elfman, but it’s still a powerful work. This film works so well because the music it’s showcasing is so moving and successful. There is very little music in this film that you won’t immediately recognize, and the feelings that come with that music is something you’ll experience once again. That’s really the point of Score though, as directors, musicians, orchestra members, and composers talk about the importance of the film score, and they way they go about constructing it.
What is said is less important that what we here in Score, which is a good thing because there is very little depth to the information presented. We’re not really taken into the process of creating the music, but it’s a difficult thing to really explain. Music is something that you experience, and the best looks at the creative process in this film is when we get to see some of the composers simply sitting down to bang away on a random instrument for fun. Those instruments can be quite unusual at times, which is also part of the fun. There are times where someone will play a few notes on an instrument and you’ll immediately know where it was used. This is best illustrated when we hear the familiar sounds of the Rugrats television show.
As the film moves through the decades, we get to see what inspired each new style of film score, but the majority of the time is spent on orchestral work. Think John Williams or Hans Zimmer. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it feels like just one piece, albeit the largest, of the puzzle. Towards the end, we see the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which is certainly a sidestep away from the orchestras we’ve watched for the majority of the film, but it’s only for a few minutes. It would have been nice to move beyond the most obvious and iconic pieces of music, but it’s hard to say that Score: A Film Music Documentary doesn’t benefit from its focus on the favourites.