Album Reviews

John Debney: The Passion of the Christ Original Soundtrack Recording (La La Land)

debney

One of the most successful films of all time is also one of the most controversial films of all time. In spite of the controversy, Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ is a stunning work of art; beautiful cinematography goes hand in hand with excellent casting and a powerful script. The issues of violence are understandable and are legitimate, and if one isn’t a believer, what Christ is subjected to seems almost sadistic. For those who know the story, though, the film is seen as an accurate portrayal of the last week of Jesus’ life.

It was a labor of love for Gibson; considering the investment he put into it, he defied all logic—Christian films seemingly aren’t successful, and mainstream Hollywood studios won’t touch them, and it seems “the industry” was rooting for Gibson’s certain failure. During production, Gibson quickly realized that the film he was making was turning into something greater and that he had a masterpiece on his hands. He thusly became obsessive over every little detail—a most understandable reaction, considering the subject matter. The film needed to be perfect, as he felt it would be the best telling of the Passion story in existence, and as a man of faith, he didn’t want to let Christians down.

Thus, the soundtrack had to be perfect. It had to build tension and suspense. It had to be accurate to the time period, both in sound and in arrangement. It had to be reverential and Holy. He commissioned musical scholars and experts, commissioning and rejecting work by well-known experts in the genre—including Dead Can Dance vocalist and masterful score composer Lisa Gerrard—until he came upon John Debney. Superficially, he seemed a peculiar choice, as his specialty had been family comedies and Disney B-movies, most notably Liar Liar, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Elf, and, uh, The Day My Kid Went Punk.

The score for The Passion of The Christ served its purpose quite well; it is a score that is haunting and brutal, simultaneously haunting and inspiring, a trip into another world, another time. Unlike most scores, this collection stands on its own, a cinematic trip in its own right. Added to the original score is an hour’s worth of unreleased material; alternate versions, unused pieces, and music used for promotional purposes. Considering the nature of the release, it’s really not that redundant, and the second disc flows as well as the first. I’m hesitant to pick it apart; it is really a score that one must take in at once, an all-or-nothing affair that will demands immersion and rewards the listener.

Kudos must be given to the compilers of this set; the story of the creation of this score is told in painstaking detail; furthermore, this is perhaps the first time I’ve seen a soundtrack that goes into vivid detail on each particular track—offering not only the details of each piece’s arrangement, but placing it in context with where it appears in the film, and why that particular piece was chosen for that particular scene. The Passion Of The Christ may be a controversial subject, but this soundtrack release is an immaculate collection.

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