• Review by Kaya Savas - October 11, 2018

Papillon was a film that came and went pretty quickly, probably because the 1973 version is still a well-known and celebrated film. That didn’t stop the filmmakers and composer David Buckley from doing their best to tell their version of the story. This adaption of the autobiographical novels Papillon and Banco by Henri Charrière does an admirable job of refreshing this story of framed murder and escaping from prison. The true highlight here is David Buckley’s absolutely wonderful and beautiful score.

Buckley is able to paint a picture of hopelessness with ease, and that sets a perfect tone for the narrative. The use of chorus here is simply awe-inspiring, and in some cases chills will run down your spine from how Buckley is able to build this notion of longing for freedom. The use of the chorus adds an ethereal quality as well without being overtly religious. Buckley’s own background as a choir boy was definitely put to good use here.

There are moments in the score other than desolation and hopelessness. It’s in these moments that we get small amounts of tension and forward momentum, but the majority of the music is dedicated to painting that emptiness deep inside. The film has three core elements: the longing for freedom, the brutal living conditions of prison and then planning an escape. The score mainly focuses on the longing for freedom and the living conditions of the prison. If the music ended up commenting too much on the action of the escape it could have easily become a standard action thriller score, but with this structure it stands out way more.

Papillon unfolds like a trancelike nightmare, painting this image of being stranded and alone. You feel the weight of the music bare down on you with an elegant choir singing down to you from the heavens as you look up out of a dark hole. Papillon is a great exercise in precision when it comes to crafting tone and the inner depths of human longing. David Buckley’s score is a powerful narrative element, and it continues to display his talents as a skilled storyteller.

  • 4/5