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Soundtrack review: Past life (Cyrille Aufort – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Past life (Cyrille Aufort – 2017)



“Past Life”, a thrilling investigation into the sins of the past. Written and directed by Avi Nesher, Past Life tracks the daring late 1970s odyssey of two sisters – an introverted classical musician and a rambunctious journalist as they unravel a shocking wartime mystery that has cast a dark shadow on their entire lives. Cyrille Aufort wrote the score, which also includes deliberately challenging pieces that were commissioned especially for the film, to be performed by the in dramatic moments. There are also a couple of traditional Jewish songs performed by the choir.

The score opens with a lyrical and serious orchestral theme which combines the piano, slowly played with string and horn motifs that create a sombre atmosphere right from the start. So many war movies dealing with the Holocaust have been made over the years with so many scores and this is the sound that I hear most often: always with a violin ensemble and an almost mournful piano. I am enjoying it and it links the music with the story in my head. The mood changes with the second cue “Katowice” because the instruments start playing more furiously, with more stride, both the piano and the strings. This is an investigative action cue that lets me now it’s not all memories and drama in this scores. This tone is also enjoyable and even more so when “Photoshoot” brings a Viennese Waltz like fervour. I feel like I am attending a ball. Still I always prefer the melancholic piano that I find again in “Baruch’s diary part 1”. The piano here is just dripping poignantly and the strings play a quiet melody in the background.

The score gives me the impression of two completely different tales being told; I imagine it’s the two opposite personalities of the sister that Cyrille Aufort so cleverly puts in contradiction, one quiet and melancholic, the other one vivacious and with a joy of life. Sometimes even in the same cue, like “Dance teacher” the two different tones meet as the track starts like a celebration and ends in sadness. These tonal variations don’t occur often in the score as the music flows in that serious and lyrical piano mood. It’s a strong and meaningful undertone over which Cyrille Aufort sometimes brings a string storm to mark the feverish investigative scenes. There are also subtle moments when the piano goes a little bit deeper and gets a little bit sadder, like in “Safi’s letter”; it’s an almost impalpable flinch of the music.

“Past life” is a beautiful, soft piano heavy score that is very pleasant to the years and actually put me in a peaceful mood; I felt the sadness of the music but it wasn’t heavy or burdening, it was natural and honest and sometimes I just love to listen to a quiet piano score that doesn’t affect me or move me but it’s simply beautiful music. Cyrille Aufort’s composition will please orchestral music fans as it quite often has a concert hall sound to it.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 36

Album excellence: 41%

Past Life Theme (Cyrille Aufort)
Baruch’s Diary, Pt. 1 (Cyrille Aufort)
Photoshoot (Cyrille Aufort)
Sefi’s Letter (Cyrille Aufort)
Baruch and Agnieszka (Cyrille Aufort)
Past Life End Credits (Cyrille Aufort)

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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