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Soundtrack review: Rosewater (Howard Shore – 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Rosewater (Howard Shore – 2014)


“Rosewater” marks the directorial debut of Jon Stewart and is the true story of the ordeals endured by an Iranian-born journalist who tried to expose a story to the BBC.
The title comes from the cologne the main torturer was wearing, the only way the main character could identify him.  Howard Shore wrote the score, and I was very interested in this one. Shore is one of the composers I trust the most, no matter what genre the movie might be.

The oriental influences are obvious from the first cue. The Arabic sounds work and give this score a clear identity. Even though the movie is a story about imprisonment and torture, there’s no aggressiveness in the music. What the score does have is a sense of unease and discomfort given by the very intelligent way in which Howard Shore uses the soft strings.
“Solitary” is a cue that almost dissolves as it gets close to the end, as I imagine time does when you are in solitary. I can’t trust the sensations I get from this track or from “Maryam” and this shows how efficient Howard Shore was in expressing the right feelings through the difficult, subdued Arabic rhythm. “The confession” is another dark and uncomfortable cue.

I was surprised by how well “Rosewater” works, given its lack of truly emotional and dramatic cues. A subject like this could have been treated differently, but maybe the effect wouldn’t have been as good. This score doesn’t want to extract exaggerated or artificial feelings from the listener. It makes a quiet statement about pain and determination, and for 25 minutes of music it’s a remarkable achievement.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 28

Album excellence: 67%


03_Haj Agha

07_Evin Prison



12_The Confession

13_International News



Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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