Film scores

Soundtrack review: El arbol sin sombre (The shadowless tree) (Marc Timon Barcelo – 2015)

elárbolsinsombra

Sadness… doubt… tenderness… delicate beauty… a shadow of fear… these thoughts and sensations come over me like butterflies when the music starts. The “Theme from The shadow less tree” is the kind of piece that warmly welcomes me to a score and instantly quiets down the outside world with its noises and problems and questions. Then each of these feelings gets explored more deeply in one of the more special scores I’ve heard this year.

“El árbol sin sombra” tells the story of two girlfriends who have chosen different paths in their lives. Before one of them leaves for college, the two decide to go camping one last time… The girls however meet another group in the forest and their conflict with them reveals that the link they thought was so strong is actually quite weak… the composer chose to take his wonderful main theme and deconstruct it to see what other ideas and sentiments were hiding in there.

“Hunt and escape” feels more like “Hide and seek” to me. The gentle touch of the composer morphs this dangerous and violent situation into an illusion, a game towards its end. From the loud and complex start to the quiet and sweet finish which reminds me of James Newton Howard’s compositions for M Night Shyamalan this cue is as interesting as it’s beautiful. The music stops and starts again, it’s a dialogue between two characters or two states of mind. It almost sounds like a melodic Morse code which gives me an important message or a clear and slow heart beat.

The horror sound appears in the smartly titled “Was it the wind?” and is very efficient. The abused strings and the music which simulates an eternal creaking door make for a very uneasy combination. The atmosphere isn’t overwhelming; it takes its time to surround me like a dark fog. There’s still place for me to move inside this web.

The moment when I know I will keep my ears opened for Marc Timon Barcelo from now on is the gorgeous piano piece “We are nobody”. This is the kind of perfect cue I don’t find that easily and I always feel an immense joy when I hear. This cue is rich, layered and it tells a story on its own. The piano is alive and it soars like a magnificent bird after it struggled to escape its cage. This release motif is my favorite from the entire score. It also shines in “The last test”. It also comes in strings, or in a slowed down form in “Hector’s lament”. It’s beautiful and this core main theme of “El arble sin sombra” goes right on my list of best cues of 2015.

Even if it was written for a horror movie, the score focuses on the two main characters and the relationship between them. The external factors don’t interfere very often and when they do, you feel it. Most of the music is melodic and piano based so we don’t lose the trace of where it all started. “Tina’s dream” is the rawest of its variations and an ode to beautiful piano pieces sprinkled with flute nuggets. The score makes me feel close to the characters and makes me understand them and I think it serves the movie better than if it had just been scary.

“The shadow less tree” is the kind of dense and meaningful score which makes for a most rewarding listening experience. The piano keys feel as if they were made of led and each press goes deeper than it normally should. Many scores are enjoyable in the moment like drawings in the sand but the tide washes them away once the final cue stops. It’s not the case here… this music is carved in stone and the passing of time will only make it more valuable. Do not miss this release. Get it from MSM

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 45

Album excellence: 72%

Highlights:

Theme from “El Arbol Sin Sombra”

Hunt and Escape

We Are Nobody

I Won’t Be There

Hector and Alex

Rob’s Lesson, Pt. 1

Rob’s Lesson, Pt. 2

Tina’s Dream

Through the Flames

Tina’s Doubts

The Last Test

Hector’s Lament

Together Again

The Shadowless Tree

 

About the author

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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