If there is one thing the McDonagh brothers share besides actor Brendan Gleeson, it’s their musical sense as directors. While Martin McDonagh has shown effort to stick with Carter Burwell in his directorial efforts, John Michael McDonagh has used a different composer on the pair of his feature directorial efforts. Patrick Cassidy may not be a household name, and frankly his filmography is small when compared to other working composers. I was first introduced to him when he composed a piece of music used in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. He wrote a piece called “Vide Cor Meum”, and it was a street opera performed in Florence in a scene in the film. The piece made it onto the soundtrack, and Scott loved it so much that he reused it again in Kingdom Of Heaven. Calvary is probably the first time most people are hearing Cassidy in full-form. He co-composed an instrumental album with Lisa Gerrard titled Immortal Memory that is worth checking out too. For Calvary he has composed something of substantial beauty, momentum and emotion. This is truly a gorgeous score structured with a grand beauty pushing it forward.
Calvary tells the story of a good-natured priest who is suddenly threatened while performing a confessional. The man confessing says he will murder the priest in 1 week, and the film follows him as he sees the dark forces around him closing in. The score opens and closes with a beautiful movement backed by stirring vocals. As we enter into the score, Cassidy gives us the central Calvary theme, and this anchors the entire score. The entire body of the score never strays too far from that central theme. Instead, certain melodic elements are introduced to sort of hover over this theme. It builds magnificent layers of emotional weight. This is not necessarily a religious film and the score doesn’t come across preaching anything. I interpreted the score as something resembling a journey wading through the mud and trying to come out the other side of it clean. Atoning for sins and forgiveness also echo in this score, but it is completely void of the dark humor in the film which makes it a more resonating standalone experience. The score has a slow tempo and moves in an elegant fashion, but the air is filled constantly with strings so the emotional weight never fades. Once we come to the conclusion we feel a tinge of tragedy but a satisfying bookend as well.
Calvary is a beautiful score filled to the brim with emotional weight and some existential significance. You can portray it on the religious aspects of the film or reflect on your own inner beliefs like I did. The score is emotionally accessible and relatable, and is an extremely strong effort from Cassidy. Don’t skip over this one as it will immerse you with a somberly beautiful and memorable journey worth taking.
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