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Soundtrack review: Menashe (Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist)

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Soundtrack review: Menashe (Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist)

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“Menashe” is a 2017 Yiddish-language American drama film directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein. Menashe (Menashe Lustig), a Hasidic Jewish man who was recently widowed, tries to gain custody of his ten-year-old son Rieven (Ruben Niborski).The plot is loosely based on Lustig’s life. A tender drama performed entirely in Yiddish, the film intimately explores the nature of faith and the price of parenthood. The music was written by Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist.

It doesn’t take more than half a minute for the music to take me to one of my favourite places, the land created by my favourite composer duo, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis. The sparse mood, slow moving strings that fade into a banjo melody usher me back into the special country western sound that’s trademark for them; this reflective emptiness moves me and brings me joy and I am more than happy to discover another composing team that is not afraid to venture into this territory. We need more composers bold enough to write something this minimalistic and affecting; it’s the kind of music that is superbly intimate and personal, music that could stretch forever it’s gentle sounds because there is nothing in there to stop the reverberations of its echoes and send it back.

The music consists of one main theme that is reinterpreted and reworked with instruments, strings and chords that go through an imaginary blender and come out fused together; I love how instruments are maybe not played the way they would normally be and still sound sublime. I love how restrained the music is and I love the subtle country mood that makes me think of a night fire in the middle of a vast emptiness, of a mood were nothing and nobody rushes me and I know I have time to reflect and focus on my emotions. This score gives me the same feeling of time expanding itself that I get when I spend time playing alone with my little girl; there is nothing sharp or dangerous because the music is reduced to its barest of essences. The sound is sparse and it’s an infinite playground for emotions, a playground that is never crowded, a playground that never frowns, a quiet musical sanctuary that mixes melancholy and hope in their rawest of forms, a place where these two emotions are almost similar. It’s a place out of time where loneliness is a gift.

“Menashe” truly is a fantastic score and there are times, like “Closing”, when Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist outdo the masters of the genre because their music still has a glimmer of optimism which gives it am even more special shine. I wish this score was longer…I wish I could get access to the recording sessions and I can’t wait to hear more and more from this composing duo who made a stunning entrance in my world. If you are looking for the gem of 2017, for the perfect score you might be missing, stop at “Menashe”. It left me speechless and longing for more, it moved me and if it was longer it would have been one of the most serious contenders for score of the year. I thank the composers for allowing me to take this journey.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 23

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:
Opening
Prayer
Sunset
Fire
Window
Closing
Sunrise (Bonus Track)
Reappearance, Disappearance (Bonus Track)
Walk the Shape of a Parting Crowd (Bonus Track)

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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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