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The Birth Of A Nation by Henry Jackman (Review)

posted Nov 4, 2016, 4:13 PM by Kaya Savas

One thing that is immensely impressive about Henry Jackman, is his versatility. It’s a word that is used to describe composers often, and while it’s true that most composers are indeed versatile, it’s with Henry that you tend to see it happen more frequently. His projects differ very much from one another. Most composers will kind of do (be it against there will or not) a block of horror, a block of comedy, or a block of action films. I mean, go to IMDb right now and check any series of 5 of his scores in order, they all widely differ in tone and style and genre. From Turbo, The Interview, Pixels, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Big Hero 6, Winnie The Pooh, Uncharted 4, and now here with The Birth Of A Nation. Henry’s score for this film might be looked over due to the controversy surrounding past rape allegations from the film’s director, which is a shame because this is a simply powerful score from Jackman.

The Birth Of A Nation is a score that is right in sync with the emotional core of the film from the get go. The music feels born of the time, place and characters the narrative follows. We follow the story of Nat Turner and his journey to lead a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. The film uses the same title as 1915 D.W. Griffith film that was made as a piece of KKK propaganda, the Griffith film is still examined today for its use of now widely used filmmaking techniques. Parker, the director said the choice of the title was by design. The film joins the ranks of many other powerful films about slavery as the historical period is constantly revisited in film for a source of stories about inspiration during humanity’s dark times. The music plays a very important part here by being the essential ingredient of keeping the story from tipping over into full melodrama. By utilizing African vocals and shimmering strings, we get a real raw emotional power from the music. The score is not overly melodic and never steals too much attention, but its presence is still powerful. The tone is melancholic, but there is a warmth to the music especially during those smaller moments. The score acknowledges the pain and misery of the film’s subject matter, but it never dips into melodrama and that’s what makes this score so successful.

The Birth Of A Nation is a powerful and emotional score without ever being too large and boisterous. Henry Jackman keeps the score very much in sync with the characters and emotional core of the film to deliver music that truly helps the narrative. The music’s organic feel helps the movie straddle a fine line of raw reality and theatrical melodrama for an end result that makes this one very strong effort from Henry Jackman.