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The Book Thief by John Williams (Review)

posted Dec 6, 2013, 5:56 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Dec 6, 2013, 9:03 PM ]

John Williams' The Book Thief is special for two reasons. The obvious one is that it is simply a new John Williams score, a monumental event in and of itself, the master musician works so sparsely these days that fans uphold any type of news relating to his film scoring. The second, and perhaps the more important reason, is that this is Williams' first film score for a director other than Steven Spielberg in 8 years. Memoirs Of A Geisha was his last one, in 2005, for Rob Marshall; a project he sought out himself because he was a fan of the novel. The result was a fantastic and delicate score filled with atmosphere and cultural color. The Book Thief bode expectations for a similar outcome, but the final score is one that ultimately lacks heart.

Williams resorts to his typical bag of tricks: lighthearted melancholia that harkens back to Angela's Ashes, and whimsical flourishes that one can pick out from any number of his previous scores (hear "The Snow Fight" and "Foot Race"). It all sounds pleasant but there is no substance to the theme or melodies that grounds the music into a unique soundscape. It feels very much like a continuation of his last two mundane efforts, The Adventures Of Tintin and Lincoln, though there is a little more color here that makes it stand above them. Then there is the rare moment of incredible beauty that only John Williams can muster. "The Train Station" and "The Departure Of Max" both reach this short-lived yet profound irridescence that makes the listener yearn for more. It comes and goes far too quickly and leaves you feeling empty. Some development and a tighter narrative would have made this score blossom, but alas, this is the final product.

John Williams continues to meander with The Book Thief, a project with great expectations but even greater disappointments. The music exudes a warm and familiar feeling of comfort, but it never holds itself together long enough to achieve something better. It is watered down, flowing loosely without strong development and tone to guide it anywhere meaningful.