Film scores

Soundtrack review: The killing fields (Mike Oldfield – 1985)

killingfields

I have a confession to make…There is one musician whose music I listen to more often than Hans Zimmer’s. There is only one artist with whom I have a stronger emotional connection than with Hans, and it’s because I met him very early in my life and his music had time to find a home inside me. His instrumental compositions are out of this world and he is one of the most influential musicians of our times. Unfortunately he only did one movie score and that was 30 years ago. There were some misunderstandings with the producers when he asked for an orchestra and a choir and this plus his more private nature and his problems in dealing with people made him gain an unfair bad reputation in the business. I am sure that Mike Oldfield could have become one of the best film music composers in the world had he gotten the chance.

We do have “The killing fields”. The true story of two journalists in the turbulent and violent period of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 80s. From the story in the movie to the real life story of the man who played the title character (he wasn’t an actor and he’s one of only two no professional actor to win an Academy Award; he was murdered some 10 years after the movie in controversial conditions) “The killing fields” remains a landmark in film history. Mike Oldfield’s score perfectly captures the emotion of the story and all the layers of emotions the characters go through.

For a fan of 80s synth and electronic music this is another must listen to composition. The subtle changes in mood showcase what a masterful composer can do. We get cold and uncomfortable pieces like “Capture” and “Execution” which show the harsh and evil external conditions. They are Terminator level cues When the score gets emotional we hear “Pran’s theme” and “Bad news” which are heartbreaking motifs.

Mike Oldfield got the orchestra he asked for and it’s themes like “Pran’s departure” and “The trek” that make me regret even more the fact that he didn’t do more film scores. They are beautiful and epic cues which give me goose bumps. My favorite theme is “Good news”. This is how I discovered the score…I had purchased Mike Oldfield “The essential XXV” best of compilation and heard this mesmerizing little track which evokes hope and tenderness.

“The killing fields” is a wonderful and touching composition which gets very uncomfortable to listen to in some moments. It’s supposed to sound like that to make us realize what the main characters had to go through. This is not a score I can listen to often because it is so heavy, but then again this is not a movie one might want to see often, exceptional as it is.

It’s not too late for Mike to do another film score, of course, but I don’t think he is interested in this anymore…

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 37

Album excellence: 62%

Highlights:

Pran’s Theme

Requiem For A City

Pran’s Theme – 2

Execution

Bad News

Pran’s Departure

The Trek

The Boy’s Burial / Pran Sees The Red Cross

Good News

Etude

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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