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Soundtrack review: Last days in the desert (Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans – 2016)

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Soundtrack review: Last days in the desert (Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans – 2016)


“Last Days in the Desert” is an American drama film about the temptation of Christ, directed and written by Rodrigo García. The story follows Jesus in an imagined chapter from His 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. On His way out of the wilderness, He struggles with the Devil over the fate of an ordinary family in crisis, setting for himself a dramatic test with distinctly human conflicts. Ewan McGregor stars in a dual role as Jesus and the Devil. The score was written by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. I guess the jokes about McGregor looking like Jesus when he played Obi Wan finally got to the right ears.

It’s not easy for composers to tackle a story like this; on one hand the hallucinatory and vision part of this can allow them to imagine all sorts of sounds and motifs without being contained by clear boundaries but on the other hand it’s Jesus and the Devil and fasting and praying. For me, Bensi and Juriaans took the best road: they chose the piercing strings as their sound of choice and went for what I call the “Nick Cave and Warren Ellis” brand of Western music. The wailing Cello, the motifs that seem purposely elongated as if to make the cut deeper and more decisive and the absence of any other echoes in the music makes this my kind of score. That Cave / Ellis sound is one of my favorites to listen to and a story about loneliness and delusion in the desert should sound exactly like this.

I can feel the palpable emptiness in the music and I can feel the questions and doubts raised by the different depths of the Cello strokes. The music creates an atmosphere of reflection and pain, of a silence that says more than words. Most of all the music creates an mournful atmosphere of intense loneliness with no place to hide. The only thing to do is face your own demons and your deepest thoughts. I admit I am very biased when it comes to strings and that’s why I love this score so much but fans of percussion will get their fix in the opening of “The fall”.

I love how the music feels alive as if the instruments are telling the story instead of the images. There are moments when the music puts and exclamation point, or three points of suspension, or even a question mark. It’s all in the hand of the soloists and in the notes that the composer put on the sheet. I just wish I had been in the room when this score was recorded. I want to know who the soloist is…

“Last days in the desert” is a somber and deep reflection that will leave a mark.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 33

Album excellence: 100%


01 The Desert

02 The Camp

03 Man Makes Do

04 Jerusalem

05 The Return

06 Dawn

07 The River

08 The Cliff

09 The Fall

10 Last Breath

11 Funeral Pyre

12 A Blessing

13 Goodbye Demon

14 Crucifixion

15 Resurrection

16 Epilogue

17 Last Days End Credits

18 A Holy Man

19 The Camp (Alternate)

20 Afterthoughts


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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