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Soundtrack review: Passage to dawn (Diego Navarro – 2016)

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Soundtrack review: Passage to dawn (Diego Navarro – 2016)

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“Pasaje al amanecer” (“Passage to dawn”) is a 2016 drama. Javier a young photojournalist decides to travel to Fallujah (Iraq) as war correspondent. His flight leaves December 30th at dawn. Before traveling to his destination, he must deal with another conflict: his family. The score was written by Diego Navarro and this is the first composition of his I am listening to. I am always excited and confident about Spanish speaking composers since they are never shy about expressing intense emotions musically.

“Manufacturing memories” is such a wonderful concept…this is the title of the opening cue and it instantly makes me feel warm about this score. The cue is mild and and mysterious and a dreamy flute motif like the one that ends this piece always gets to me. If I add to that the cello that makes “Dreamcatcher” an instant favourite of mine I’m already very happy with Diego Navarro’s choice of instruments. But it sounds cold if I only talk about instruments since the music is all about the emotion they express and the piano tells me a beautiful story in “Candela”. I just want to grab this cue and go with it wherever it may take me, I want to hear the rest of the story, I want to know why these magical sounds were composed and if there’s more where this came from. Three very short cues in and Diego Navarro already convinced me that we feel music the same way. This score is like a parade of my favourite elements that I like to hear in film music, small nuggets of them but when I hear the flute, the cello, the piano and then the female choir I just want to have them expanded and developed.

Then they combine…I feel as if I’m watching the creation of the beautiful painting where the artists first mixes the colours he wants to use and then starts bringing them together in shapes and images. The theme for “Manuela” charms me and I listen to it three or four times before moving on. Just like the rest of the score this theme is minimalistic, subdued, as the composer went for a chamber orchestra instead of a full orchestra; the movie is intimate and is all about the inner feelings of the characters so the focus went inward, deep.

Still the most poignant element of “Passage do dawn” is represented by the cello solos. No instrument can play pain and heartbreak as well as the cello with its sombre and heavy sounds. I imagine there is a lot of pain in “Passage to dawn”, the kind of pain that you can’t even cry about because there is no point. In “A long distance” the violin comes to sooth the pain and tone it down as there is a bit of hope. The composer makes me feel, deeply and intensely, the hurt of the characters and a pain that maybe sometimes needs to be kept hidden so it won’t affect the decisions of the others. The score is quiet and calm and the parts without the cello sound almost fairy tale like.

It’s not often that a score leaves me speechless. I write about film music; I love writing about film music and yet sometimes I feel the music, quiet as this score is, speaks so loudly for itself that I just want to write the words “Listen to this score” and nothing more, as I enjoy the sounds and let them carry me in a land filled with honest emotions. Cues flow into one other and I am just grateful that I am able to listen to them, enjoy them, live them.

“Misha & Mira” is the most beautiful piece from “Passage to dawn” and one of the most beautiful cues I’ve heard in this first half of 2017. This wonderful and quiet dialogue between piano and cello where each of them takes its turn in telling its emotional and haunting story rolls beyond music. “Misha & Mira” is more than music; it’s the confession of a composer that embraced the story he was presented with and felt it as if it was his own.

The war element is presented with subtle Middle Eastern inserts and vocals that take the tone of the score to mournful. But the piano, the other pillar of this score next to the cello comes to sweeten up the mood. I listen to a recital like “Life gave me another chance” and I don’t need more both as a film music fan or classical music fan. Add to this a lullaby specially written by Diego Navarro for this film, both in French and Spanish and I feel even closer to the characters.

“Passage to dawn”, next to Gabriel Yared’s “The promise” is the best quiet orchestral score of 2017 so far. The music touched me, moved me, affected me, it made me feel with every single cue and when it was over I wanted to start it all over again and explore it even more. The cello and the piano leave a long lasting echo inside me with their timeless dialogue as they transcend film music. A composition like this can melt the coldest of hearts. Diego Navarro made a fantastic first impression on me and I am already a fan. I can’t wait to hear what he will write next.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 51 / 51

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:
Manufacturing Memories
Dreamcatcher
Candela
The Announcement
Manuela
A Chance To Choose
A Long Distance
Revelation
The Star Of David
Alone
Promise Me, You Will Be Back
The Mail
Misha & Mira
The Three Doors
Overnight My Lap Belongs To You
Life Gave Me Another Chance
Lullaby
To The Core Of The Soul
Passage To Dawn – Main Theme

 

 

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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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