Long Live Desplat!

My review of news this morning included a delightful piece by Dana Stevens on Slate about the French composer Alexandre Desplat. I could barely contain my excitement as she not only went through Desplat’s catalog but also the work of other composers I enjoy. In the course of any given day I listen to at least 7 hours of film scores. It’s what I read to, think to, write to, and as a grad student sometimes cry in frustration to.

Desplat is on the top of my list of favorite composers. But I curiously don’t own a lot of his music. He’s simply such a wonderful composer that one song, “Prologue” from Birth, is all I need. I don’t remember much from the film but I’ll never forget this opening scene. All these years later it haunts me and has colored every experience I’ve had with broody winter days.

I agree with Stevens that Desplat doesn’t have a sound in the way that John Williams does: epic, soaring, the perfect Spielberg-sidekick. Of course, Williams is deep on my film score playlist; notably via Harry Potter.

Desplat should give himself more credit. His scores bring out “the invisible” within a film but they also imbue those films with lasting emotion: I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just once because Desplat’s music put me in such a state of melancholy I couldn’t bear to even buy the soundtrack even though I really enjoyed it.


I could talk about film scores for days. I’ll conclude with three of my favorite tracks:

1. Adrian Johnston made lemonade for this lemon of a film. “Sebastian” is sublime. No need to see the movie, just listen to the score.

2. Johnston strikes again in Becoming Jane, a film made bearable by James McAvoy.

3. If Desplat’s “Prologue” made the intro to Birth exceptional, then Hans Zimmer knocks it out of the park with scoring this conclusion with “Chevaliers De Sangreal.” I’m not ashamed to admit I like The Da Vinci Code. I love it! It’s a great art history caper, in league with The Thomas Crown Affair. This ending is the essence of schmaltz and it gets me every time.

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