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Comments about the soundtrack for Heaven & Earth (Kitaro)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Jon Turner
• Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 8:49 a.m.
• IP Address: donated.filmtracks.com

(The following donated review by Jon Turner was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2009)


Heaven & Earth: (Kitaro) Being a fan of Kitaro, I was surprised to hear that he actually did the music to Oliver Stone's critically underrated Heaven & Earth. Film scores are not Kitaro's style (although his works have been impressive and experimental), but considering that this is the only film score he has ever done, this score is a masterpiece. In fact, it was so successful a debut, that this score earned Kitaro a well-deserved Golden Globe Award. Too bad Heaven & Earth didn't have similar success at the box office, because the film is one of the most powerfully heartrendering films I had ever seen in my life, and this music was the main reason why I liked it.

The opening track is impressive; it opens with a pan pipe of some sort, then a synclavier begins playing, right along with the orchestra, a slow, sad descending scale, right along with a chorus. Then, we hear a brief chinese violin solo, and the orchestra builds up and performs a powerful, majestic, evocative pastoral, musically painting a picture of Vietnam (which is where this movie takes place). If you haven't seen Heaven & Earth, you should; this music is the perfect mirror image of Vietnam. The score also recaptures the horror and brutality of the Vietnam War, particularly when at times, the music starts to get furiously percussive, and the orchestra plays a pretty, yet scary war cry that is powerful enough to make us want to run from danger, as the Vietnamese do in this film. In addition, Kitaro creates extremely sad music for some of the film's most heartbreaking scenes, such as Le Ly Hayslip (our main character) suffering the war, losing her father, losing her family, losing her home. The music is so sad during these points, that it makes us want to cry (I certainly almost did, from seeing the movie and hearing the music along with such scenes!).

Even on pretty tracks, such as "Ahn's House", there are brief moments of horror. About two thirds through the song, we hear aggressive percussion rumbles, while the choir sings an anticlimactic, depressing hymm. Such an abrupt change of pace is violent, but no more violent than the scene it goes over (in this case, this happens when Le Ly's mother gets really mad when she discovers her daughter is pregnant after sleeping with Ahn). Sometimes, if war veterans listen to this music, they might regret that they were ever a part of such a brutal war, particularly in the case of one of the film's characters, Steve, a well-meaning soldier who is tormented by past memories of killing many innocent Vietnamese in the war. This is recaptured spectacularly with "Steve's Ghosts." The music isn't full, its just a bing of a triangle and a bit of ambient, lonesome music from the synthesizer. But what really makes it emotional is that while all this is going on, we hear, at the same time, heart beats. It really gave me the creeps when I first listened to this track, as it probably will to many others who do so.

Heaven & Earth is not a musical, but there are three songs on this album that appear at different times during the film. "Sau Dau Tree" and "Please Come Visit My Village Of Hoa Qui (on the "Ahn's House" track)" are sung by Hiep Thi Le, who plays Le Ly in the film. Her vocal performance to the songs bring out a certain spookiness to leave us memories of a terrible pasttime, but at the same time, it is also a great way to let us know we are in Vietnam. The same thing is true for "Trong Com", even though it is more of a children's song. It's a traditional Vietnamese Folk Song, as mentioned in the album's credits, and it sounds a little more lighthearted than the rest of the music. I guess the album producers (to my surprise, the director of the album is Oliver Stone -!-.) wanted to also give us an innocent side to Vietnam, as well. The album has a lengthy amount of music (I don't remember hearing much more music in the film than what is here on this album), and the sound quality is excellent. The only complaint that some might have is that most of the tracks just "blend" into each other without pausing between breaks. This has been true to many of Kitaro's other CDs, but this is no big deal at all. It is the music that counts. This is a score that will leave you in tears every time you listen to it, and with something to think about. If you don't already own this CD, you should get it; I very highly recommend it. *****






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